Julie Anne Eason
A COMFORTABLE and easy-to-use locker room is critical to your fitness center's success. Says Daniel Rudy, president of Spa Partners, East Hanover, N.J., "It's important for clients to feel comfortable there, or they may not come back." Whether you run a value-conscious facility or a luxury wellness center, a few extra touches here and there will go a long way toward pleasing your members.
Entire roomHygiene is essential in locker rooms. Even older facilities need to be clean and inviting, whether your staff does the work or you hire an outside cleaning service. Smell is even more important than appearance. If a room has a musty or moldy scent — or worse — you need to take action. Do whatever is necessary to inhibit mold and mildew in the carpeting and shower curtains. It may be invisible to the eye, but many people have severe allergies to these substances.
Renovate your locker rooms every few years to keep them up-to-date. Pay attention not only to the latest colors and design elements, but also to space considerations. Has your fitness center grown significantly in the past year? It's time to add more space. "If people are changing on top of one another, especially during peak hours, they are not going to be happy," Rudy says.
Lighting is another important consideration in your locker rooms. Soft, indirect light is the most relaxing and easiest on the eyes. Even if you're using energy-efficient fluorescent fixtures, you can still choose full-spectrum replacement tubes, which mimic natural light. Make sure you change your bulbs or tubes regularly. Blinking or vibrating fluorescent lights are not only annoying, but also have been known to cause migraines and even set off seizures.
LockersThe lockers themselves are important. If you have an upscale facility, you should offer wood lockers — or at least a wood laminate. "These have an advantage over standard metal lockers in that they are quieter and have a cleaner look," says Ricardo Alva, outside sales manager for Salsbury Lockers, Los Angeles, Calif. You can order the laminate style in your colors to streamline the design of your facility.
Whatever style of locker you use, it's important to have hanging room. This is especially important in urban centers, or wherever your clients are likely to be changing into or out of suits or long coats. No one wants to cram their work clothes into a tiny locker. An iron and ironing board or steamer also help with wrinkled clothing, but your members may not have time to de-wrinkle if they're in a rush.
If you assign lockers to members, it's a nice touch to have their names engraved on a removable plate. Says Rudy, "If you also put the year they joined the club, a sort of pride is attached to the locker. Some clients really get attached; it's almost like a competition to see who has the oldest date on the locker door. It's great for member retention."
Shower areasOffer liquid products that match the financial level of your clients, Rudy says. The more money they make, the higher the quantity and quality of soaps, shampoos and other products they will expect. A value facility should have one bulk shower gel, suitable for both hair and body cleansing, and a nice liquid hand soap at the sink. Higher-end facilities should have separate body wash, shampoo and conditioner — perhaps with your logo on the dispenser system. "If you have more than three products in the shower, you run into space problems," Rudy says. "You end up using smaller dispensers, which have to be refilled often. If you want to offer extras, use the vanity area for that."
Vanity areaThe biggest mistake many managers make is buying all sorts of drugstore products and leaving them out on the vanity. "All those products get pilfered, and you lose incredible amounts of money," Rudy says. Consider putting your logo on individual bottles of certain amenities and selling them at the front desk. "This makes the statement that you are proud of the products you choose for your clients," Rudy says. "It also spreads the word about your club to non-members who see the products in your member's home." Amenities can include moisturizers, mouthwash, deodorant, hair sprays and gels, Q-tips and cotton balls.
Health issues are important to consider when you choose vanity products. "Some clubs offer razors, ... [which] is a huge liability issue. With AIDS and other blood-borne pathogens, ... allowing your clients to shave in the locker room is just asking for someone to get sick and sue your facility," says Rudy. He also says talc is a health hazard: "It's from the same family as asbestos. Use cornstarch instead."
Make sure all of your products are in attractive, but fully-locking, dispensing systems. The better the product you offer, the more likely it is to end up in someone's gym bag. Also, make sure your staff checks the levels frequently. Clients get unhappy if the shampoo runs out during rush hour.
Wet areasNot every fitness facility has a pool, steam room or sauna, but if yours does, you may wish to offer some extra amenities here. Towels are the most obvious choice, but make sure you have the ability to deal with lots of laundry — and stealing is also a problem with towels. Of course, high-end clubs should have nice plush towels, perhaps with an embroidered logo. Swimsuit dryers are popular amenities in facilities with pools — no one likes to carry a wet suit around in their bag all day.
Disposable flip-flop slippers and individual bath mats are a nice touch for wet areas, too. No matter how often you wash the floors, viruses can spread when people walk around barefoot, so members should always use some sort of foot protection.
Rubber or plastic floor tiles can be a great addition to any wet area, says Barbara Pluta, international service representative for Dri-Dek, Naples, Fla. Easy-to-install interlocking tiles provide positive footing to prevent slipping. "The tiles are raised on the bottom to provide ventilation and treated with additives [that] prevent fungus, mold and mildew growth," Pluta says. They are flexible, so you just have to roll them up to clean the floor underneath. And they come in a wide variety of colors to match your d?cor.
Funky odors are a big problem in wet areas, since mold and mildew love the moist environment. "I like to use a Churchillian approach to germs in locker rooms — fight them on the ground, and fight them in the air," says Rudy. He advises that you clean all surfaces with antibacterial solvents.
Wood and glass are two completely different substances that require different cleaning methods — glass cleaners will crack porous wood saunas. "Consider a self-timing air freshener to take care of body odors. No one will use the sauna or steam room if it smells bad. In that case, you've just got wasted space. There are plenty of relaxing or rejuvenating scents on the market," Rudy says.
Beyond expectationsHigh-end fitness centers may want to consider extras that go above and beyond the norm, like putting TV monitors in the locker room. Also, many facilities offer closed-circuit monitoring of the childcare room. Parents feel more at ease when they can see their children having a great time and being cared for appropriately. Fresh flowers are another thoughtful extra touch. Sometimes local florists will provide the arrangements free in return for a small sign with their business information on it.
"If you have the room, a massage service is another nice amenity," Rudy says. "A full-time masseuse is probably not necessary. Just make sure your clients know to make their appointment ahead of time."
Other products and services include hair dryers, dry cleaning, magazines and newspapers, Internet access, art on the walls, robes and more. This is only limited by your budget and imagination.
Take pride in your locker roomsPutting some time and thought into your locker room amenities shows your members that you care about their comfort. A locker room isn't just a place to change clothes, it sets their mood before a workout and helps them relax after. Take a moment to ask yourself some questions:
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