U.S. Club Report – Opportunities Outweigh The Challenges

Article written and supplied by Kristen Walsh for the What’s New in Fitness Magazine – Summer 2017 Edition.

In 2016, 57.3 million people belonged to health clubs in the U.S., up from 55.3 million in 2015. That yielded a penetration rate of 19.3%, up from 18.8%. Forty-four per cent of them were core members, utilising their club at least 100 times during the year. And 22.1% of them belonged to more than one facility. All are record breaking figures.

The 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report candidly acknowledges that changes and challenges lie ahead, but these have more to do with intensified competition and how to continue growing, than with retrenchments or retreats. The sector now involves more clubs, more countries, more members, and more business models than ever…and is still expanding.

2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer - Download from IHRSATwo major research organisations—IBIS World and Research and Markets—have both charted the rising curve, with the latter estimating that the global industry will enjoy a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.14% between 2017 and 2022.

The trend is being driven not only by corporate ambitions and entrepreneurial aspirations, but also by shifting societal conditions that produce problematic physical and psychological effects.

There are more people…and people who need clubs’ services more.

The fitness-services market grows ever larger, but, because there are more suppliers, with sharp knives, sitting at the table, the slices of pie grow thinner.

Later in this article, we share 10 key applications from the report’s chapter on “How to Apply Consumer Research Findings.” There’s serious room for growth, they suggest, with respect to the youth, millennial, generation-X, senior, affordable, and inclusive segments of the market.

Based on more than 24,000 interviews conducted in 2016 and early 2017, the 132-page 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report provides a wealth of detailed information on, among other topics, U.S. membership trends; member demographics, attendance patterns, and activity preferences; membership fees; and personal and small-group training users.

For the first time, the Consumer Report also contains a special section on core consumers.

“This year’s report is loaded with insights on how clubs can profit from current consumer tendencies and preferences,” observes Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products.

The intimate portrait it paints of the contemporary club consumer serves as a virtual blueprint, a well-informed game plan, for those contemplating and crafting the industry’s future.

How to apply consumer research findings: Applications for club operators, developers and suppliers.

[dropcap]1.[/dropcap]Consistent consumer growth bodes well for the health club industry, as Americans continue to place a high value on their health and fitness. However, with increasingly intense competition, club businesses must set themselves apart in order to succeed. Now, more than ever, it’s critical for club operators to differentiate themselves from the competition.

[dropcap]2.[/dropcap] Opportunities abound to target and serve the youth market. The under-18 group is underrepresented among health club members, relative to the overall U.S. population. Considering the unique goals and needs of the youth market, club operators are well positioned to provide offerings to complement exercise goals and help develop healthy activity habits.

[dropcap]3.[/dropcap] Attract and retain Gen X consumers with programs that appeal to them and their children. The percentage of members between the ages of 35 and 54 has remained steady over the past five years, encompassing 33% of the total share of membership. While research on generational groups is often focused on millennials and baby boomers, the Gen X market shouldn’t be overlooked. Reward their loyalty; offer shorter group exercise classes or personal and small group training sessions; and provide inclusive family fitness and sports programs.

[dropcap]4.[/dropcap] Appeal to older age groups by catering to their unique health and wellness goals. The 55-plus group is tied with the under-18 segments as the fastest growing age bracket. However, like the under-18 population, this older segment is underrepresented relative to the overall U.S. population. It’s important to consider the unique characteristics of this age cohort. IHRSA’s Best Practices e-book, Health Club Programming for All Ages, details successful older adult initiatives at health clubs.

[dropcap]5.[/dropcap] Maximize millennial market potential. Rather than emphasising facilities and amenities, consider how aspects of your club, including staff, can work together to create the customised training and experience the millennial consumer is looking for. IHRSA’s Guide to the Boutique Studio Phenomenon provides a number of ways health clubs can leverage boutique strategies to improve member engagement and drive revenue.

[dropcap]6.[/dropcap] Bridge the income gap with affordable and inclusive options. According to the 2017 Physical Activity Participation Report, lower income groups were more likely to be inactive than the overall population. However, health club consumer research findings imply opportunities to serve lower income consumers: affordably priced clubs can capitalise on serving lower income households; low-income and high-income households had equal participation rates in small group training (SGT) in 2016; and community programs may help boost the likelihood of lower income households joining clubs.

[dropcap]7.[/dropcap] Personal one-on-one training and small group training can coexist to serve members’ needs. The availability of both personal and small group training yields profitable opportunities and applications for clubs, developers, and suppliers: Club operators: make sure your club is staffed with personal trainers and specialists that can serve your target market’s needs and goals. Club developers: if you can position your company as a specialist in training for a specific goal, sport, or population, you may find success in a niche. Club suppliers: According to the IHRSA Health Club Equipment Report, more than 80% of clubs incorporate equipment in training programs.

[dropcap]8.[/dropcap] Encourage and incentivise frequent attendance, which correlates positively with membership tenure. Converting casual users into core members can increase a club’s bottom line, not only through continued membership dues revenue, but also through ongoing exposure to non dues services, for which core members may be more likely to pay an additional fee.

[dropcap]9.[/dropcap] Embrace the competition and profit from multi-club users. In 2016, more than 12 million health club members belonged to more than one facility, representing 22% of total memberships. Savvy club operators can embrace this phenomenon as a positive indicator of consumer’s willingness to invest significantly in their health and fitness. If you’re a club operator or developer, your business stands to profit from multi-club utilisation.

[dropcap]10.[/dropcap] Equipment manufacturers must look beyond the sale of traditional equipment and their traditional client base to prosper in the future. A few strategies or actions vendors might consider include: Pursue customer diversification. Change your thinking and don’t put all your eggs in the traditional health club basket. Build upon equipment technology to facilitate social engagement. Envision your business not as an equipment manufacturer, but as a fitness experience and digital entertainment provider. Create fitness tools and accessories that leverage the current industry trends around functional-based movements.

[box type=”info” align=”aligncenter” class=”” width=””]You can purchase the 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report from here – ihrsa.org/consumer-report. US$99.95 for IHRSA members, US$199.95 for non-members.[/box]

Founded in 1981, IHRSA – International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association – is the industry’s global trade association, representing more than 10,000 health and fitness facilities and suppliers worldwide. Locate an IHRSA club at www.healthclubs.com. To learn how IHRSA can help your business thrive, visit www.ihrsa.org. John Holsinger, IHRSA’s Director, Asia Pacific, can be reached by email at jwh@ihrsa.org or on mobile 0437-393-369.

Article written and supplied by Kristen Walsh for the What’s New in Fitness Magazine – Summer 2017 Edition.

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