Monday, March 23, 2009

Bay Area Gyms Roll With Punches Of Recession

“The recession may be leaving many of us fit to be tied, and some of us trying to cope by staying fit. While it can be hard to get yourself motivated and willing to work out when fears of job loss and financial security loom, exercise is one of the best antidotes to stress and anxiety, health experts say. That's a preventive medicine that many Americans have taken to heart: As of January 2008, the latest figure available, there were 29,636 health clubs across the nation, with 41.5 million members, in an industry that generated $18.5 billion in revenue in 2007, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association in Boston, which held its annual convention in San Francisco last week, showing off the latest in fitness machines and gym workout trends. The association projects little decline in membership during the coming year, noting that the industry has proved recession-resilient in the past. About 6,018 health clubs belong to association. A survey of 180 of those clubs comparing January's business to that of a year ago showed that two-thirds of the clubs met or surpassed their expectations in terms of revenue, memberships, new memberships and attendance, among other things. Perhaps surprisingly, during the last three months of 2008, as the recession kicked in, the trend among member clubs was an increase in membership, the association reported. In the Bay Area, health clubs are reporting mixed signals as the economy continues to falter. San Francisco gyms such as Sports Club/LA at the Four Seasons Hotel, World Gym on De Haro Street and Gold's Gym on Brannan Street have seen little, if any, decline in membership. Sports Club/LA reported an increase in the number of member visits in February over the previous year, at 31,000, and 200 new memberships in January, according to Vicky McGrath, the general manager. Where are some clubs feeling the pinch? In customers' buying habits, said Joe Talmadge, general manager of World Gym. Membership there is holding steady. The first quarter of the year is typically the gym's busiest, but customers are buying fewer personal training sessions or products at the gym, for a 30 percent decrease in revenue, he said. More two-for-one memberships and month-to-month memberships are being offered as a result, as customers worry about job security, he added. In some suburbs, the picture is different. Gold's Gym noted dips in its San Mateo and Redwood City clubs as clients with families hold off on their personal training sessions or drop memberships entirely. Specific numbers were not made available, but ‘our locations in San Francisco are not as affected as (in) suburbia, because in the city people have more disposable income and fewer children,’ said Letty Hernandez, general manager of Gold's Gym on Brannan. ‘People in suburbia will cut their luxury stuff out before music lessons for the kids.’ Gyms may be a great place to work out, network and feel a sense of belonging, but they are not the only way to stay fit mentally and physically, or to generate community. Fitness professionals interviewed for this story were happy to provide suggestions for no-cost home workouts requiring no equipment (see Page E1), and to advise getting out with friends to keep motivation up as you run, bicycle or walk together.”

1 comment:

Margie Geiser, RD, NSCA-CPT said...

Many trainers think this is a time to hold back on building their business. However, this is just ONE story that indicates that people ARE interested in continuing or starting a fitness program! The opportunity right now is to focus on how exercise helps decrease stress. Plus, this story also points out that the trainers who use their creativity, AND listen to what people want and need, will be successful.

Marjorie Geiser, MBA, RD, NSCA-CPT
MEG Enterprises, Inc.