Blog: 'Low-Price' Doesn't Necessarily Equal 'High-Value'

Rob Bishop Headshot

So, who started putting the words "high value" after "low cost" when describing health clubs that we all know and love (and we hate) as the "low-cost providers"?

Have you noticed this? It started creeping into trade magazines, blog entries and websites a year or two ago, "high value" used to bolster the credentials of humble "low cost." We don't like it.

Rob Bishop and Barry Klein are owners of Elevations Health Club in Scotrun, Pa. Their Health Clubs column appears monthly in Athletic Business.Rob Bishop and Barry Klein are owners of Elevations Health Club in Scotrun, Pa. Their Health Clubs column appears monthly in Athletic Business.

Certainly, if you are the owner of a low-priced, purportedly high-value (LPHV) club, you're loving this editorial trend. You have others telling the world that you are both cheap and, even better, a great buy. But as owners of MPLTTOOAHV clubs (mid-priced, like to think of ourselves as high value), can we ask that the love-fest for the low-priced guys be cooled off — as with dogs, you could use a garden hose — just a bit?

It's bad enough that everyone thinks that we're doomed. As we have written about ourselves, mid-priced clubs are getting squeezed like never before. We're being assaulted on the low end, and on the high end we're competing with the big boxes as well as the trendiest of boutiques. We are too expensive to be cheap, too big to be small and too small to be big.

We're doing fine (thank you for asking), and based on the experience we had at last December's iClubs conference in New Orleans, there are a lot of club owners like us who are doing fine, too. But the predictions of our doom are everywhere, largely because of the low-priced gyms, who can suck the air out of a market by all but giving away their memberships. If the mid-priced, mid-sized gyms don't have their act together when a low-priced gym comes to town, then they really are often doomed. One of the most important things they need is a unique value proposition. And there it is — that V word.

Sure, the low-priced guys are going to tell you that they are HV. Why wouldn't they say that? But we think we're pretty HV, too, and big-box players like Life Time provide great V for their P. So who died and made the low-priced players the king of high value?

If you ask us (we're obviously biased), we think that many low-priced gyms provide terrible value. It may only be $10 a month, but if your gym is packed to the gills and you are standing in a line several people deep in order to get to a machine, you might not see a lot of value for that $10. On the other hand, you might not care less about such things because, heck, it's just $10 a month.

At our gyms, we provide unbelievable value for our average dues of $50 a month. Do our members appreciate it? We hope they do — like the dad who brings three kids to our childcare three nights a week. What's that worth? About $600 a month in childcare value? Our members can also swim, take world-class caliber classes and work out on brand-new machines, and they rarely if ever have a wait. That's right! We provide un-freaking-believable value.

So can we please leave the decision about who is "high value" to the consumer? Low-priced can be high value if it meets and exceeds the member's expectations, but we're quite sure that there are more than enough members and former members of low-priced clubs (we've got some of them) who would say that the value stank. Let's not give the low-priced guys more credit than they deserve. Value is in the eye of the beholder.

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