It's a new year, a new political climate and, it's hoped, a brighter economic future some time in 2009. But, what about now? How is the current state of the economy affecting the fitness industry business today, and what can we and should we be doing to keep our membership numbers healthy?
At the recent Club Industry conference in Chicago, a panel discussion was held to address this concern. Industry consultant Rick Caro led the panel off by stating that, in these times, all fitness businesses have limited resources. The question, he asked, is, how can clubs employ those resources and allocate them for best return?
Panel members resoundingly agreed that resources should be allocated to taking care of a fitness center's core asset - its members. Members haven't always being taken care of as they should, they said, so this provides fitness facility operators and their staff members an opportunity to be loyal to the members they have.
For the past 25 years, Fitness Management has been providing you with ideas and strategies for member retention. Yes, gaining new members is always important, but retaining current members is even more important, especially in a down economy. With the talk focusing for so long on how to attract the 86 percent of the population that isn't part of our membership, it's refreshing to hear this message plugged.
Rather than focusing on all those non-members out there, the panelists urged facility operators to take an internal look at their operations. For one, they said, we need to better diagnose who are our fragile members. Second, we need to focus on delivering service. Third, operators need to continually reinvest in their facilities and programs. And last, and most importantly, operators need to continually remind members about the improvements being made.
This issue's special report is about reinvesting and improving your facility for your members from a design standpoint. First, we hear from some facility operators about the challenges they faced when designing and redesigning their facilities. And, we see how art can add a special effect to enhance the members' overall experience.
Next, we learn from the experiences of Tom Durkin, a facility operator who has designed or redesigned more than 20 fitness facilities, and how, recently, he started with a box and ended with a "bling" facility. While the design process may begin with mechanics, in the end, it's really all about how your members see and interact with your facility.
Safety may seem to be directed more to the protection of your facility, but, in reality, it's really about protecting members first, then the business. In another article in this special section, representatives at insurance companies discuss how paying attention to details in your locker rooms can make them safe and inviting for your members.
And, last, three architects discuss ways in which you can enhance the "wow" factor of your facility with your floors. Floors may seem secondary in the design process, but they have a significant impact on the atmosphere and overall durability of the facility.
Especially in the hardest economic times, it all comes back to member retention. Whatever aspect you focus on - from the design, to products, programs and services - this is the time to keep your members happy. When you do, you'll discover that, by being loyal to them, they'll be loyal to you.