What will your gym business look like when we emerge from COVID lockdown?

Wexer Blog

1 May 2020

In North America, gyms are top of governmental lists for post-lockdown re-opening. In the UK, they will likely be in the last wave. The timing will vary from country to country, but the sector will one day get the green light and – provided they have financially weathered the storm, which sadly will not be the case for everyone – gyms will get a chance to re-open.

The question is: how will you re-open?

The reality we must all face is that it won’t simply be a case of opening our doors and having everything go back to how it used to be.

With that in mind, to what extent have you thought through the detail of how your business will look in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 – and beyond? What will you do to maximise your chances of success in the face of radically new and different customer expectations?

In short, how well will you have adapted to the ‘new normal’ – a new way of operating that reflects things like:

  • New exercise behaviours after an extended period of home fitness
  • An expectation among members that what they have enjoyed over recent months – i.e. online fitness – will not be taken away, but offered as a complement to gym visits
  • Potentially high levels of caution around entering a gym
  • A possibility that superstar instructors may no longer be available, if financial pressures have pushed them into new work
  • The need for social distancing, health checks, hugely heightened cleaning processes (including members properly cleaning every piece of equipment after every use)

If you need a ‘for example’, just take a look at China, where gyms have already started to re-open. In physical facilities, a plethora of measures have been put in place: sensors to check everyone’s temperature before they enter, beefed up cleaning teams working round the clock, sanitising stations at every turn, social distancing and face masks in force. And the business model has changed beyond club walls too, with a newly enhanced online presence that has continued beyond lockdown – and that is now being monetised.

Official requirements may vary from country to country, but this isn’t just about the letter of the law. It’s about consumer perception, doing whatever is needed to make members feel safe in your gym. To make them feel like you have put them first.

So, what will your gym look like post-lockdown?

  • How will you implement social distancing, and will this preclude group exercise?
  • How will you encourage – and support – members to make the right decision and stay at home if there’s any risk they’ve come into contact with the virus?
  • In the light of new consumer expectations, how will you ensure membership of your gym continues to offer high perceived value?
  • How will you monetise your online fitness offering, so it’s of value both to your business and to your members?

 

The answer to many of these questions can be found in exactly the same place as gyms have found answers to the challenges of lockdown: digital fitness technology.

 

Social distancing

Many clubs are considering re-opening with no group exercise to start off with, but that may not have to be the case. Provided there are excellent standards of cleaning in the studio, and adequate space allowed between each participant, particularly classes like mind-body and other more static workouts should be feasible.

In-club virtual fitness is a great solution here, allowing for a round-the-clock studio timetable even if instructors aren’t available: more classes to ensure that, even with fewer people per class, everyone gets to do the workout they want.

And, of course, all of this can be complemented with a full group exercise offering delivered digitally, for out-of-club workouts.

 

Precautionary measures

Ongoing at-home fitness provision will ensure a smooth transition, even as the road continues to be bumpy for a while.

We are, after all, likely to see secondary waves of lockdown – area by area as needed – to contain future outbreaks of COVID-19. Individual members may also have to stay at home for two weeks at a time if they’re exposed to the virus. Gyms will need to be incredibly flexible, supporting their members in maintaining their exercise routines whatever happens.

Hybrid membership packages should be offered, encompassing in- and out-of-club training solutions. This will allow members to come to the gym when possible and train at home when it isn’t – either due to lockdown or simply being in quarantine themselves.

 

Perceived value

Having got used to working out from home, people will now expect to have access to online fitness as part of their exercise routine. It won’t replace gym visits, but the convenience and flexibility will mean ‘any time, anywhere’ digital fitness becomes an important part of the exercise journey moving forward.

A hybrid physical/digital membership – whether digital is included in the monthly fee or as a premium add-on – will meet this expectation, broadening your appeal and adding perceived value to your offering.

 

Driving revenue

Once members are allowed to return to your facilities, you might consider putting your virtual fitness offering behind a paywall. Members could then pay a small fee to access the service on whatever basis they choose: buying a pass for a day, a week, a month or a year.

Alternatively, you might want to continue offering it for free, albeit password protected so only your members can access it. Offering more without charging more will in itself prove a revenue-booster, driving loyalty and retention in a market that will become more price-sensitive than ever as we emerge from the current crisis.

 

To find out more about how Wexer can help you implement all of the above, please contact us at info@wexer.com

 

You might also be interested in reading this insightful report from EuropeActive’s Herman Rutgers, which offers detailed predictions for the post-pandemic European fitness sector: https://www.europeactive.eu/sites/europeactive.eu/files/covid19/After_Corona.pdf

 

AuthorPaul Bowman