Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Celebrity Boost For Gym

Glitzy Partnerships Let 24 Hour Fitness Buck Downward Health Club Trend

“On Tuesday, the much-hyped 24 Hour Fitness-Derek Jeter will welcome New Yorkers into its sleek facility on Fifth Avenue at Madison Square Park for the first time. In February, 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide made headlines when it announced a partnership with the Yankee captain for its entry into the New York market. The company has found that attaching the name of a high-profile athlete to a club helps attract members. It will need that boost, because even health clubs are feeling the effects of the country's economic turmoil. Gym membership declined unexpectedly last year from 2006, falling nearly 1% in New York state and 3% nationally, to 41.5 million members, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. ‘When the cost of basic essentials goes up and salaries don't go up in proportion, certain luxury amenities have to be cut,’ says Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise. ‘We've seen a few people make the decision to say, 'My membership's gotta go.' The last time the economy slipped, after Sept. 11, many viewed working out as necessary to relieving stress and restoring a sense of normalcy. Health club openings in New York state rose 55% between 2001 and 2006, to 686, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association and InfoUSA Inc. Now, the combination of an oversupply of gyms and consumers' growing economic anxiety makes it appear that the boom is waning. Scott Rosen, chief operating officer at Equinox, declined to provide current membership numbers but says that they far exceed last year's. ‘A lot of our members would sooner cut out a meal at a restaurant than their gym membership,’ Mr. Rosen says.”


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