Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Eight Great Gym Deals

The Recession May Be A Boon For Consumers Who Want To Save Money On Getting In Shape

“The health-club industry is notorious for aggressive pricing and complicated member contracts, which can drive away even the most enthusiastic exerciser. But the recession is giving consumers the upper hand in this sometimes lopsided relationship. Take for example, The Sports Club/LA, a high-end club with locations in Los Angeles, New York and Miami. President and founder Nanette Pattee Francini says that while the company exceeded expectations for new memberships in January, it has decided against raising prices for monthly dues (averaging $175) and personal training sessions (about $90). For its lapsed members, the company is also waiving 50% of the initiation fee, which can cost as much $800. ‘We just wanted to say to our members, 'We care, we don't want to lay more stress on you,' says Francini. The club is also offering members new discounts on performances at nearby cultural institutions. The Sports Club/LA isn't the only gym chain offering deals to retain and attract members. New York Sports Club, Equinox and 24 Hour Fitness are following suit by slashing initiation fees and monthly dues, as well as offering a combination of monthly and annual plans that de-emphasize commitment. So far, the impact of the recession on the health-club industry has been mixed. An informal survey recently conducted by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a trade group, found that two-thirds of the 200 respondents said business in January met or surpassed their expectations. The remainder, however, reported that low usage among existing members and poor sales for new memberships led to monthly results that were dismal compared with the previous January. IHRSA expects to release industry-wide performance results for the fourth quarter in the next few weeks. Katie Rollauer, IHRSA's senior manager of research, expects to see indicators like total revenue and membership dues down from the previous quarter. But she's encouraged by consumer surveys, including one sponsored by the club franchise Anytime Fitness, which indicates that people intend to keep their membership even if it means downsizing to a less expensive club. ‘People are looking for ways to stretch the dollar,’ she says. ‘Clubs that get it are trying to work with their members.’. ‘Long-term discounting on membership dues is never a good idea,’ says IHRSA's Katie Rollauer. ‘It's the bread and butter of the industry.’”

No comments: