Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Economy Weak? Gyms Try to Stay Fit

“With the bleak economy weighing down our psyches and lightening up our wallets, you might assume that Sacramentans would consider health club memberships or home gyms a luxury they no longer can afford. Think again. Though nationally, gym membership showed its first decline in a decade in 2007, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sports Association, many Sacramento clubs report that attrition is minimal. In fact, Life Time Fitness Inc. last week announced plans to build a 91,000-square-foot gym in Roseville, pending city approval. Maybe, posits Joel Bouchereau, manager of 24-Hour Fitness in Roseville, people need the stress relief of exercise. Then again, perhaps Sacramentans value their healthful lifestyles over healthy bank accounts. ‘In this economy,’ says Bouchereau, whose club charges $24 to $39 a month for membership, "the one thing people still have any type of control over is taking care of their health. ‘Our numbers are up from 2007, but we are seeing less walk-in traffic. Maybe people don't want to fork over the cash, but they'll pay the (monthly) dues.’ Lean times for the economy mean the fitness industry needs to do more to attract and retain members, says Tom Petrul, marketing director for the Capital Athletic Club in Sacramento. ‘It's a bit more of a challenge these days, but we're holding steady,’ says Petrul, whose high-end downtown club charges $113 in monthly dues. ‘Every club on the face of the Earth has attrition.’ ‘Typically, we're below the national average for attrition. But this past year, we're at the average, due to all the (economic) reasons.’ One sector of the fitness business reportedly cleaning up during the downturn is used-equipment outlets. At Fitness 4 Less on Arden Way in Sacramento, which buys and sells ’pre-owned’ equipment, manager Steve Collins reports that more customers are looking to buy treadmills, stationary bikes and weight machines after dropping gym memberships.”


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