Monday, 4 May 2015
Since I joined the health and fitness industry over 15 years ago it has been dominated by the big players. The likes of david Lloyds, Esporta. Next Generation, Virgin Active and even some of the smaller clubs such as Fitness first, Marriott Hotels etc.
Independent gyms used to be your traditional "spit & sawdust" gyms that catered for a market that did not want the big health club
In recent years though there has started to be a massive shift away from these clubs as people hunt out new ways to exercise and more fun ways to spend their leisure time whilst still engaging in fitness. This had led to an upturn in the fortunes of the independent club. It may also be that fitness is following the trend of a lot of retail and leisure spending in that people are incraesingly looking to spend their money locally, within their own communities and with people they trust. Cost is not the issue but value is.
So why should you join an independent club?
1) They are more likley to value your custom, treating you as a member and not a number. Small business owners value every penny as that is what is paying their mortgage and their bills at home as well as work. They do not have the limitless resources to allow them to continually chase new members. they therefore tend to value the ones they have
2) Their membership numbers tend to be smaller, this gives them more opportunity to offer a more personalised service to their customers
3) Quite often the business owner is a part of the community and so already has a social link to many of the people using their services. This creates a genuine atmosphere within the club rather than one that is falsely created by the management
4) Before setting up their enterprise the business owner will have had and still does a passion for what they are doing. if they didn't they would not have invested upwards of £100,000 in the new venture. with passion comes excitement an d a desire to see others succeed. That passion rubs off on others.
This is one of the biggest issues I have found in larger clubs, its a job, there is little ownership of the monmey spend or the losses in membership. There ends up being a distinct seperation between those using and those running the clubs.
5) They have a personal investment in your success. if you achieve your goals you are a walking advert in the local community. What better marketing is there?
6) Independent clubs find it easier to move with trends, try new things and adapt to their members. Large corporate clubs ofetn have to follow the lead of their senior managers and this can take a while to filter down to the clubs. Corporate image and corporate values can get in the way of success sometimes.
7) Investment in kit is ofetn well resarched. They do not have the opportunity with regards to money to make mistakes so they invest wisely. Larger clubs ofetn hedge their bets and end up with too much of nothing.
8) They allow you to find a neish that suits you. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone smaller clubs often focus on key strengths. Cross fit clubs are a perfect axample of this. They have found a market and stuck to it. The success of this is emmense. None of them are massive clubs but most are very successful and solid profit centres for their owners.
9) Small clubs allow communities to flurish. becasue there are less members it is more likley that the group that does attend become closer, better friends with few clicks. We have certainly found this isn our business.
Even bnefore we set up our new facility we have ben advocates of shop locally. We ensured we only hired local builders and local suppliers where possible. I believe this is the trend moving forward. More bespoke offerings in smaller settings with a greater emphasis on value and retention.
I am not saying the big club is dead however if you are looking for a long term love of exercise with a buzzy, friendly atmosphere, then try out your independent club first. You may very well be surprised