Monday, January 12, 2009

Despite Slow Economy, Owners Of Local Gyms Remain Pumped Up

“It seems a few gyms on the North Shore took it on the chin last year as the economy slimmed down. One of them, the North Shore Athletic Club in the Cummings Center in Beverly, closed its doors Dec. 31 without any explanation. Also last year, four Curves women's health club franchises in Danvers, Middleton, Beverly and Peabody shut their doors. Despite the economy's rough shape, local gym owners say they're confident that health clubs have the stamina to outlast the recession, because people care about being fit. "The people who are working out tend to think it's pretty important," said Anne Tarvin, owner of the Curves gym in downtown Topsfield. Massachusetts ranks sixth out of the 48 contiguous states in terms of health club membership. In the Boston area, more than 20 percent of the population belongs to a club, said Kara Thompson, spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. ‘Certainly, the economy affects a lot of industries, but we have a good track record around recession times,’ Thompson said. ‘I would tend to agree with that,’ said Tarvin, who's owned her franchise for the past seven years. The nationwide chain offers a 30-minute circuit workout for women who may be busy but want to stay in shape, Tarvin said. The silver lining of this anemic economy is that clubs are offering discounts, waiving enrollment fees, and providing free personal training and other discounts, Thompson said. ‘It's easier for clubs to retain their memberships than to gain new ones,’ she said. The Topsfield Curves, which typically begins to see new customers late in January, is offering half off the service fee and the first month free, Tarvin said. The Beverly club closed at a time when New Year's resolutions kick in, with January being the month health clubs typically bring in 12 percent of their new members, Thompson said. ‘It's kind of a cyclical thing,’ Thompson said, ‘as one club closes, one may open in its place. Furthermore, there's room for all types of clubs in the industry.’ A new operator, the Beverly Athletic Club, has stepped up and plans to open an Express club in the same location in March. Owner Ed Soul could not be reached for this story.”

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