Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is a Custom Gym Membership For You?

"You're at the gym, huffing and puffing away on the treadmill, trying to lose those last five, 10 or 15 pounds, when you glance at the person running next to you. Without fail, it's a supermodel or a bodybuilder. Suddenly, you're feeling a bit intimidated.More and more gym-goers, however, are avoiding this scenario by joining niche health clubs that cater to specific needs--including making members feel comfortable enough to want to keep coming back. ‘In general, clubs that are very in tune with their brand and what they're marketing have the most success,’ says Rosemary Lavery, a spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. ‘They know what they're selling, and it's very clear to the consumer. There are no misconceptions.’ Consumers seem to agree. In 2005, the IHRSA estimated that there were 10,000 express workout centers--facilities with less than 3,000 square feet of space and a membership of about 350--in the country that accounted for the majority of clubs that opened the previous year. Today, of the more than 30,000 health clubs in the U.S., only the women's club Curves has more than 10,000 facilities, says Lavery, an IHRSA spokeswoman. Niche gyms owe much of their success to Curves, which was formally launched in the U.S. by husband and wife team Gary and Diane Heavin in 1995. Of course, by targeting such specific users, these clubs put a lot of pressure on themselves to satisfy those they do attract. But, Lavery says, the gamble is often a smart one. ‘No matter what you're doing, people need support, whether it's financial or emotional,’ Lavery says. ‘In health clubs, it's no different, and that's why niche markets succeed.’”


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