In a recent article* posted on FastCompany they asked people who used to go to a gym before COVID and have since tried a home gym, if they were likely to go back to a gym membership.
A whooping 76% said that they enjoyed the home gym experience, whether it was a dumbbell, a home gym setup, remote yoga, a zoom zoomba class or a Peloton class. Of the 76%, a large number – 66% said that they would not come back to a physical in person gym. Millennials coming in even higher at an incredible 82% made the switch with 81% prefer it.*
If you’re a gym owner and reading this, what does this mean for you?
Well, first of all, if you own a weight training gym or some form of an instructional class like yoga, boxersize, hiphop or zoomba then you might want to start looking at joining the new zoom revolution, like pronto (if you haven’t already) or find new ways of supplementing your income.
Why would I say this? Am I just being cynical? Over reactionary? After-all won’t it just rebound back like most things do?
The reason for this prediction is because of the big box and mega franchises that have slowly creeped in under our noses were already posing a problem to begin with. Have you been seeing those nasty huge LA Fitness gyms everywhere? How about Planet Fitness? F45 training? Orange Theory? Happy Fitness? Yes, these big boxes are coming for you the small mom and pop fitness shops.
But then covid. . .
At the core of these box franchises that I’ve mentioned above, contain what are for the most part weight training, personal trainers and Group Fitness classes. We all know it’s not cheap owning a good setup of weights and fancy equipment like “hammer strength”.
Just when it seemed like all was lost to the big box, a little known virus called covid-19 came along. And it changed everything. Sitting with 10’s of thousands and thousands of square footage sitting near vacant, I’m sure we have yet to see the full impact of the fallout that looms overhead for them.
So before, you had to change and get into your car. Now you can just go straight from your pj’s into your workout clothes at home.
But how about Group Fitness? Here’s where it gets more challenging. Not impossible but challenging. If you’re watching your yoga instructor from afar in a group setting of twenty or thirty people, or lifting weights with a bunch of sweaty people beside you, then what’s the difference, if not better, if your instructor is directly in front of you on your big screen? And at likely a fraction of the cost? Often actually even free.
These are challenging times indeed, as the millennials refuse to return. What will you do?
So what are smaller gyms and facilities to do?
Aside from the relief that the small gym may feel with big boxes struggling and readjusting their focus, we’re going to see an entirely new horizon in the coming year. But we’re not out of the woods yet. The small mom and pops will lose customer base from the digital revolution that is happening. But not all is lost. Keep reading as there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
You’ve probably noticed online that there’s a vast selection of online classes available. Digital is a no brainer. It’s contactless. It’s easy. It’s convenient. You’re always in charge. Some are live. Some are recorded. (promotional link).
I use digital services myself. Why wouldn’t I? I can get great Yoga lessons from the beaches of Costa Rica from the comfort of my living room. For free. Yes, I’ll support my fav channels via Patreon. But it’s at my discretion of what I want to pay.
Perhaps this shakeup was inevitable for some industries.
Some instructionals are heavily commoditized. They’re everywhere. And you know an instructor or two within your circles probably. They’re all over the internet, YouTube and other media channels.
So if you’re like me, you maybe own gym equipment at home. Nothing fancy. But something to get the job done. You also watch and participate in some form instructional fitness, say, yoga classes online.
So what does this mean for the physical in-person gym? Are people truly never going to return?
So what’s in store for 2021?
It’s my belief that the big boxes will have to make some adjustments. Even sell off several of their units and downsize. It will just not be sustainable in the new economy. How about the smaller gyms and instructional schools? Well, they’ll experience a new world as well. Certainly, things will never be the same again, but people will return. In particular, those instructionals that are heavy on the technical side and collaterally produce a sense of community, friends and group dynamics. If you’re in this group, good for you. It will help.
You’re going to also have to move to the digital revolution. It’ll just come down to the numbers. If you want to stay in the black at month-end, you’re likely going to have to offer new revenue streams.
So what’s my conclusion?
I say, bring it on.
Come summer of 2021, where will we be? My prediction, with the vaccine in full swing, you’ll see many gyms and instructional facilities will reopen. Not to the same pre-covid numbers, especially for the heavily commoditized gyms and instructionals that readily migrated to home facilities and/or cheap online instructional media.
But if you’re in a community based and highly technical, detail-oriented, physically interactive/engaged with other individuals out of necessity, coach focused business, you’ll be in better shape.
You’ll also see their digital counterparts in full swing. And maybe that’s a good thing.
* ref: https://www.fastcompany.com/90587575/gyms-arent-coming-back-heres-how-youll-work-out-in-the-future?utm_source=pocket-newtab