Monday, January 26, 2009

Sweating Out The Slump

The Recession Has Slowed, But Not Stopped, The Boom In New Health Clubs — And The Twin Cities Market Is The Nation's Most Appealing Target

“Personal trainer Jeff VanMaanen runs his own downtown St. Paul gym. But when he sees health clubs opening all around town, he couldn't be happier. ‘There's been talk of one coming in next door to me and I'm excited about that,’ said VanMaanen, who owns Equipt on East 10th Street. VanMaanen's business model is to get people working out consistently on their own. He wants clients at the gym he opened in 2007 to work with him for a few months, then move on, and encourages them to have a membership elsewhere. The gym options for his clients are expanding rapidly, from big-box suburban centers to small neighborhood outlets with just the basics, including Snap Fitness, which is expected to open next door. Three hometown players, Life Time Fitness, Anytime Fitness and Snap Fitness are among the chains that have expanded in the Twin Cities and around the country. ‘A lot of health clubs are opening nationwide and that certainly breeds healthy competition within a given area,’ said Kara Thompson, a spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. The Twin Cities holds the distinction of being the top metro area for health club membership, with 29.5 percent of the population belonging to a gym, according to the association. Despite a recession that has seen consumers pull back on spending, the $16 billion fitness club industry in the United States is expected to continue to grow at 5 percent to 10 percent a year even if there's slower growth for a year or two, said Anthony Gikas, a senior research analyst with Minneapolis-based Piper Jaffray. ‘In the last five to 10 years, there's clearly been an increased awareness of a healthy way of life and this has definitely been a catalyst for this group,’ Gikas said.”

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