Facing up to the Fitness Industry’s Post Lockdown Challenges

With Coronavirus having had a significant impact on the fitness industry, Dan Henderson, Director of the Functional Training Institute and founder of Dan Henderson Coaching, explains seven ways to face the future.

Henderson writes, that the worst mistake operators can make is to assume that the business model that worked so successfully for them pre-COVID-19 will work for them once the lockdown is over.

The fitness industry is saturated. There is more competition than ever before with new franchises, boutiques and mega gyms popping up on every street corner. However, that is now likely to change as we see a ‘thinning of the herd’. The longer we endure this lockdown the more likely we will see several operators not reopen their doors.

The financial impact and stress are immense and not every business or operator is built to withstand it for an extended period of time.

For those that navigate this period successfully, there will be opportunities but only if they adapt to the new consumer demands that will emerge.

When the lockdown restrictions get lifted within the next few months then I believe seven major areas that will change.

  1. You will need to Maintain an Online/Virtual Delivery Model
    This is important for two reasons:

    Firstly, there will be some consumers that still don’t feel entirely comfortable in crowds of people and would prefer to train from the safety and comfort of their home. They will continue to train virtually even though there is now a face to face alternative.

    Secondly, people have now experienced the convenience of training online and would like to continue to do so. This may complement their face to face training and means they now have extra flexibility and can attend more frequently.

    The hybrid model will be a necessity moving forward if you want to succeed.

  2. Semi-Private Training will be In Demand and more Popular than Ever
    I have been an advocate of semi-private training for many years and have coached over 200+ people in how to implement it.

    It will now be more popular than ever as people will appreciate more space, their own equipment and less people.

    They will feel safer and more comfortable in their own pod. They want equipment only they touch and space where they can move uninhibited by other people.

    The group numbers will be dictated by the size of your facility and equipment available but I believe the magic number will be between 4-8.

    One on one training will be in demand but there will also be economic limitations for quite some time and hence the attractiveness of the semi-private model.

  3. Team Training will be Popular but will look Different for some Time
    Team training has been the ‘it’ product within the fitness market for the last five or so years. 30 or more people crammed into a small space with pumping music and sweat everywhere have been tokens of success, but not anymore …

    People will appreciate more space, less sharing of equipment and not having to crash into people to move from one space to another.

    Team training models will need to adapt with lower numbers, clever programming to minimise the sharing of equipment and a better utilisation of space.

  4. The Cleanliness of the Gym & Equipment needs to be a Top Priority
    COVID-19 is going to be rife for a long time and it will be front and centre in consumers’ minds. We need to double our cleaning efforts at the very least and member hygiene needs to a core prerogative. You must have hand sanitiser on arrival, wipes for all equipment and the entire gym cleaned multiple times per day. In addition, you will need it professionally cleaned multiple times per week.

    The first 90 days of reopening will be paramount and your clients and prospects needs to see your gym as a place they can trust. You need to start preparing your gym now for reopening by decluttering it, installing hand sanitiser dispensers, painting it, spacing your equipment and having rules and protocols in place.

    You should start marketing the cleanliness of your space as soon as the reopening dates are announced. Organise testimonials with clients saying how clean your space is and that you are an operator that is trustworthy.

    You need to allay the fears consumers will have about COVID-19 and these measures will go some way to doing so.

  5. Community is KING
    I coach a lot of businesses and those that heavily invested in fostering their communities are benefiting right now. Their people don’t want to leave despite the financial stress they are experiencing.

    After this extended period of isolation, people will crave community. If you can create that ‘third space’ in your fitness business then you will prosper. There will need to be considerations around spacing and numbers but it needs to be a top priority. It is more important than equipment, programming or a fancy brand.

    You should be creating your social calendars, events to compete in and open days as soon as the reopen date becomes public. Get people excited about being part of your community.

  6. The 24-Hour Gyms and Big Chains will Encounter Bigger Challenges
    The smaller operators and boutiques will have a significant advantage as they will be in a position where they don’t have to overhaul their business models to the same extent the bigger gyms do.

    Larger gyms and 24-hour access gyms will have to monitor the number of people that attend at any given time. They will also need to remove equipment or limit people’s access to it as pieces are quite often in close proximity to one another.

    Members that didn’t use their memberships frequently (otherwise known as sleepers) will not return to the gym now their membership has been on hold. This will mean the number of members lost will be greater than what will be seen in the boutiques.

  7. Speed will be Rewarded more than Ever
    The new fitness industry will reward those that move with speed more than ever. Speed will the number one attribute of those that are successful post lockdown. The operators that adapt their business model the fastest, launch their reopens with the most appropriate messaging and build a business centred on trust not modalities or location will be victorious.

    There is a tremendous amount of hope for the fitness industry and I for one am very excited to see it evolve and prosper once again.