Monday, August 4, 2008

Most Fitness Centers Tough Enough To Beat Back Economy

“As the weather warms up each year, general manager Rick Leonard expects the crowds at The Capital Athletic Club to thin out. ‘Normally, you could almost set your clocks to it: As daylight savings hits and they set the clocks back, people get more involved in outside activities,’ Leonard said. But this year they kept on showing up. ‘Activity-wise, this is the busiest I have seen summer,’ he said. Mel Salada saw something similar at his Better Fit Fitness Center in East Sacramento. The first three months of the year, normally a busy time, were the slowest he’s had since opening five years ago. ‘Then this last month or two has been picking up faster and better than when I started. I’ve been holding strong these last couple of months,’ he said. ‘I’ve actually reduced my advertising. Word-of-mouth is really starting to pick up more.’ Total health club membership nationwide peaked in 2006 at 42.69 million, dropping 2.8 percent last year, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association in Boston. While small, the drop came after more than a decade of steady, strong growth. But revenue last year rose 5 percent to $18.5 billion as members spent more on extras such as massages, acupuncture and nutrition counseling, association spokeswoman Kara Thompson said. ‘It’s definitely slower on the new sales side, but on the existing membership base on all our clubs, we’re not losing people,’ said Larry Gury, co-founder and co-president of California Family Fitness.”

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