By Elisabeth Fouts, Special FBA Contributor
Typically, the summer months are low traffic zones for gyms and fitness studios. However, this summer is shaping up to be one of the busiest ever for health clubs. Why? Because now, a little over one year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the vast majority of gyms and studios in the US are returning to full operations.
The gradual uptick began in January with vaccines slowly rolling out and the New Year’s Resolution crowd making a return to their gyms as they were able. Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau reported that rejoins in January 2021 were at a higher rate than ever with 28% of rejoins coming from former members returning and 4% of new members coming from competing facilities that closed forever.
That brings up another interesting point that supports the idea that 2021 could be the best summer ever for gyms – less competition for in-person workouts. Mandated shutdowns extended far longer than expected and resulted in permanent closures of facilities of all sizes. Even the largest commercial health club chains in the US such as Gold’s Gym and 24-Hour Fitness were forced to reduce the number of locations per city.
If the momentum for a fully reopened economy continues, you might be in for record-breaking new enrollments for summer months this year. That being said, is your gym ready?
Here are a few things to consider from an equipment perspective as you prepare for more members to return.
Out with the Old, In with the CLEAN, and New
It goes without saying that expectations for cleanliness will be higher than before. A recent survey of conducted in February 2021 revealed that nearly 50% fitness consumers say that cleanliness and sanitation is one of the deciding factors of selecting a gym to join. Old, faded, torn, and chipped equipment can give the perception of being dirty. Pay special attention to foam and rubber products such as mats, resistance bands, stability balls, and foam rollers as these pick up dirt and wear and tear faster than others. A full equipment refresh on these items could be a welcoming sight for a new or returning member. The investment on these lightweight items would be small but have a big return.
The “Weight” is Not Over
Speaking of new equipment, this summer also makes one year since we first saw fitness equipment shortages reach a global scale. A massive consumer influx to commercial fitness equipment suppliers began as retail stock in cardio and strength equipment depleted quickly. While commercial fitness suppliers typically hold more stock than most, it wasn’t enough to outfit every home gym in the world – yes, world!
While the wait might be over for your members to return to the gym – the wait for some equipment could be a bit longer. The past 6 months have brought a new set of challenges to the supply chain as a global shipping container shortage has become a new obstacle to overcome. Also, on the global scale, raw materials are still being prioritized to the medical industry – equipment and PPE were top priority in 2020 and remain in 2021 along with materials for vaccine manufacturing and distribution.
An Update to Your Equipment Order Timeline
How does that affect your equipment orders? In short, large-scale projects requiring sizable strength equipment orders such as grand openings, extensive renovations, or expansions are still being affected by extended wait times.
While inventory levels for many of the smaller training accessories mentioned above as well as other popular pieces such as cardio pump sets and lightweight dumbbells (less than 20 lbs.) are stabilizing, the demand is high and the supply is still low for kettlebells, barbells, and free weights. The industry is anticipating the elongated wait times of 6-9 months will continue for 2021.
The good news is that large-scale projects for commercial gyms, franchisees, and private training studios often are planned over a period of 12-24 months. You can still get the strength equipment you want when you want it – but only by starting the equipment quote and order process sooner than later. If you place an order 2-3 months from your grand opening or new program launch, the available equipment selection might be limited. Whenever possible, get in touch with your suppliers on your equipment needs 6-9 months before you need it.
If you are waiting for your cash level to increase or stabilize before making big moves, not to worry. Equipment suppliers have short- and long-term financing options available - don’t feel like you have to pay in full to get your equipment on order. Lastly, if your plans for facility or equipment updates are still uncertain, you can still reach out to your equipment supplier at any time with questions on lead times.
The future is certainly still bright for the fitness industry. The February 2021 fitness consumer survey also revealed that 80% of participants are open to returning to in-person workouts at gyms. People realize now more than ever that health and wellness is a valuable commodity. This summer the fitness industry will enter a new season like it never has before and the forecast is uplifting.
Elisabeth holds a B.S. in Education and Exercise Science and has served the fitness industry for over 15 years. She has a variety of industry experience from personal training and group fitness instruction to health club membership sales and fitness management. Since joining Team Power Systems, Elisabeth has produced and co-authored educational content for live and virtual training sessions for the Power Systems staff and their industry partnership organizations across the United States.