SNEWS Qs, Fitness Edition: Pam Kufahl and Stuart Goldman, Club Industry

The subjects of this week's SNEWS Qs are Pam Kufahl and Stuart Goldman of Club Industry.

The Club Industry Show will take place Oct. 10-12 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Club Industry editors Pam Kufahl and Stuart Goldman chat about some of the industry's biggest trends and what retailers could get out of attending the show. To register, visit the Club Industry website.

Pam Kufahl, editor-in-chief

Stuart Goldman, managing editor

Club Industry

What are some of the biggest trends you are seeing in the fitness industry right now?

Over the past 12 months, the bigger club companies in our industry are leveraging their strength with acquisitions. Last year, LA Fitness acquired 171 clubs from Bally Total Fitness. This year, it acquired the remaining clubs in Florida from Lifestyle Family Fitness. (Life Time Fitness acquired nine Lifestyle Family Fitness clubs last year as well.) Equinox made acquisitions of SoulCycle, a cycle-only studio chain, and the remaining The Sports Club/LA clubs from the Sports Club Co.

Other trends include the rise of low-price clubs, such as Planet Fitness. Some competitors in this arena are producing similar clubs as low as $10 a month. Both Equinox and Gold’s Gym have lower-price models, too, with Blink (Equinox) and Gold’s Gym Express clubs.

Technology is growing in the fitness industry, too, from training apps that track workouts to a greater emphasis from clubs on connecting to members through social media.

What would you say is driving those trends?

After the heart of the recession in late 2008 and into 2009 had passed, credit markets began to loosen, and the club companies that were able to survive and thrive during the recession began to seek expansion through mergers and acquisitions of club companies that struggled through the recession. Also, with the recession, members began to take a harder look at what they were spending in their clubs. Some members opted to pay for the low-frills, $10-a-month clubs that better fit their budget. The low-price clubs also seek a market that includes people who have never before joined a health club. In contrast, some clubs were seeing a rise in their revenue per member as well as an increase in usage rate as some members were spending their money in programs such as small group training.

What are some new things about to hit the industry that you believe are going to be popular?

Some of those trends have already made an impact on the industry, especially with niche clubs. The rise of P90X, which had been mainly in the consumer market, is making its way into clubs. CrossFit clubs, which are really large group training clubs, are growing around the country. Also, clubs are seeing more small and large group training, both of which often are focused on functional training. The smaller studio-type facilities, including yoga and Pilates, are popular, as are cycling studios, boxing clubs and mixed martial arts clubs. More clubs also are offering 12-week programs to get potential members more acclimated to the club, since there are many people who are still afraid to commit to a health club. Outdoor “mudder” competitions are becoming popular, too, especially with people in Generation X and Generation Y.

How do you think fitness retailers can remain relevant and profitable in the future? And what would a specialty fitness retailer gain from attending Club Industry?

What’s popular in clubs often becomes popular in homes, and vice versa. So attending Club Industry would allow fitness retailers to know what is trending in the industry. With the rise of niche clubs and niche programming, a fitness retailer would be wise to offer more boxing gloves, for example, or more home Pilates equipment, yoga mats and bicycles. P90X was primarily home-based—now it is making its way into clubs. Zumba has been popular in both the club environment and with DVDs. Finding a way to connect technology to home-based workouts would be helpful, too. The fitness industry is thinking more outside the box, and fitness retailers should do the same.

--Compiled by Ana Trujillo



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