Friday, July 25, 2008

The Low-Cost (Budget) Health Club Gains Momentum In The UK

“‘We can’t open in Newbury; the town already has a private health club.’ A few years ago, that was the unwritten market rule; the first to enter, won. Why waste resources competing; let’s just find our own town. How the rules of the game quickly change. Now clubs stand side-by-side and compete hard, and not just small clubs. Some towns now have two £13 million health and racquets club within a mile of their respective front doors. ‘If the town is good enough for them, it’s good enough for us’, became the new mantra, as chains rushed to build a national estate. As competition intensified, one rule seemed to remain constant. Prosperous consumers joined the premium clubs, while those of moderate financial means frequented the ‘affordable’ private mid-market club or leisure centre. A David Lloyd membership card used to proudly sit alongside the ‘platinum’ credit card as a key symbol of success. However, unlike the credit card, they were not often pulled out of the wallet. Everyone is now well aware that the principle of neatly defined homogeneous consumer segments is now in turmoil and causing marketers sleepless nights. Promiscuous buying behaviour is everywhere, where shopping at Lidl now suggests, more ‘smart’ and ‘savvy’, than skint. ‘Geiz ist geil’ is how Hans Muench, European Director for IHRSA (International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association) characterises German consumers attitude to low-cost purchasing. ‘Stinginess is cool’, is how it translates.”

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