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industry research

the customer rules, ok?

“I read this paper and think only positively,” writes Rob Gregory, a UK-based fitness consultant, in an online Future of Fitness discussion. “We have an exciting, ever-expanding industry. It will be realised by individuals, companies and governments all pushing, pulling and prodding in one general direction: diversification. “The key to the ‘future of fi tness’ is

to properly engage and listen to our customers – the good, the bad, warts and all. They will tell us most of what we need to know.” Meanwhile, even if we look no further

than the present, a stronger focus on members as customers will help most clubs, according to US-based consultant Michael Scott Scudder. “Holding on to a member is much

easier and more cost-effective than replacing members,” he says in the same online discussion forum. “If we as an industry looked at them as customers (people we have to satisfy every time and who might not stay with us if we do not pay attention to them) rather than members (people we take for granted because they’re on some kind of monthly dues obligated-contract), everybody would be far better off.”

• •

the future

Undoubtedly new health club models will evolve. These might include: ‘Exertainment’ clubs that more closely

resemble theme parks than gyms with free weights and treadmills More specialised centres – or spaces

within health clubs – that cater to niches like active ageing, teens, cyclists, asthma, sexual health, menopause or family time Simpler clubs that revert to low-tech experiences akin to the ‘village square’

The word ‘fi tness’ needs to be re-assessed. ‘Fitness’ feels dry and like hard work. Increasingly people want to ‘bump into the fun’ in their town. They want to ‘bump into getting fi t’. The idea of going to the gym three times a week for a workout will fade out. Let’s wrap an experience around fi tness – make it compelling, connected to a bigger purpose, linked to creativity and the mind.

charles landry, uk-based urban innovator

There should be a focus on members as customers who need to be kept satisfi ed

– providing the heart of the community and with a focus on wellness and giving greater meaning to people Hi-tech health clubs offering body

mapping and body feedback technologies, both for interactive gaming and to enhance performance and technique Technology and communications

that transform home and work into online fi tness venues Consumers seem almost certain to

seek experts with ever-higher levels of fi tness training and professionalism. Fitness professionals seem most likely to prosper when they understand, and help consumers integrate with, new ways of delivering health, entertainment and sociability – not just exercise. For example, the personal trainer

might become a central hub in the health information fl ow, feeding health monitoring information and insights to healthcare providers. Managing these relationships and technology may be a new speciality for the fi tness professionals of the future. Also in demand will be those who

can deliver multiple experiences and take a holistic view of individual consumers. Today’s life coach might become an all-in-one counsellor, personal trainer and nutritionist. Both for businesses and for individuals

• •

working in the industry, the three key challenges and opportunities appear to be: Staying relevant among the current

crop of ‘converted’ consumers who already commit time and effort to fi tness Improving our offer to those who

enjoy fi tness, but not going to the gym Keeping the industry competitive

in the face of changing demographics, technology and competition

32 Read Health Club Management online

Which kind of club might yours

evolve into? What kind of partnerships might you be able to develop with businesses and community groups, healthcare providers, insurance companies and government agencies? At your club, what new specialities

could you develop to cater for niches based on age, gender, family group or personal preferences? Will your club be a risk-taker and leader or a more cautious follower of the trends? At a more personal level, what kind

of fi tness professional will you be? Will you stick strictly to the physical or will you help your clients with a broader wellness routine? And does ‘wellness’ include the spirit, career, romance and fi nances as well as the body?

join the discussion

You can help shape the future of the global fitness industry. Many of the sector’s best thinkers have joined an online discussion of the white paper at, which is designed to further develop the themes and, hopefully, find some answers. In the meantime, some fi nal thoughts

from Rob Gregory: “Each week I chat with new players diving into niches: medical, older, younger, wetter, virtual, theatrical, etc. Our industry has been well and truly sown, fertilised and watered. It’s expanding/contracting, focusing/generalising, consolidating/ fragmenting, improving/declining, all at the same time. There’s no need to dwell on dated modes. Let the consumer determine the future.”

nikitin sallee

april 2010 © cybertrek 2010

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