Monday, January 26, 2009

Slim Wallets Pack Punch At The Gym

“The fitness industry, once considered a recession-proof business, is trying to tough it out as trainers and health clubs discover many Americans are worried more about their wallets than their waistlines. In Florida, the casualties are piling up. During the past year, 369 health clubs went out of business, according to state officials, and in recent weeks, two sports-specific training facilities -- Champion Sports Complex in south Orlando and Velocity Sports Performance in Longwood -- have closed. Meanwhile, Bally -- one of the biggest players in the industry -- shut down its Winter Park and Altamonte Springs gyms in early January, leaving only two remaining Bally facilities in Orlando. Some branches of national fitness chains are also struggling. A Curves franchise at Hoffner Avenue in southeast Orlando has closed its doors, and the owner of a Fitness Together franchise has shuttered his Winter Park location, merging it with his Baldwin Park location. At the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, an organization that represents 9,100 health clubs, staffers have been informally polling their members about how they're faring in the recession. ‘It's been a mixed bag,’ said Rosemary Lavery, an IHRSA spokeswoman. ‘What we are seeing are the budget clubs and the higher-end clubs seem to be doing well. The middle-of-the-road clubs seem to be struggling more than the others.’ That could explain why business is booming at clubs such as Planet Fitness, a back-to-basics gym that charges its members $10 a month. ‘When people are signing up, a good portion of them say they're coming from other [gyms] because of the fees,’ said Eric Dore, managing partner for 10 Planet Fitness locations in Central Florida. ‘People may not be able to afford $40 a month, but they can afford $10 a month.’ After the gym ran a $1 joiner's fee special in January, Dore said, membership at his 10 clubs jumped from 55,000 to 70,000 clients.”,0,3087488.story

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