Monday, 6 December 2021

Reasons Not To Discount Your Membership in 2022

January is just around the corner, and most clubs are hoping for a windfall of new members. It’s normally the best month for fitness membership sales, but for the last two years, many clubs have missed January due to lockdowns. By just opening your doors to members (fingers crossed), you should have the best January in recent memory. But getting loads of ‘new’ members is relatively easy. How can you maximise revenue and retention, and really put your business on the path to recovery?

You don’t need to go full “Centre Parcs” and double your joining fees in January (although I’ve written about this in the past – read more here). But discounting, waiving joining fees, and offering financial incentives is not a positive business strategy for many reasons. Let’s look at some of them.

Thursday, 11 November 2021


Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It's also a workout that appeals to the super-keen fitness enthusiast. But more of that later. First, we focus on sales, marketing, and retention of health club memberships. Visits are up, yet revenues are down. It’s the opposite of the Parkrun phenomenon where finish times are getting slower. Read on to find out more. 

Lots of clubs did not experience the new member windfall predicted for September. If you are able to continue trading, you might now be starting to pin your hopes on January 2022. But unless you make some changes, the trend of lower sales and rising attrition is likely to continue. 

Visits Up, Members Down

Some club KPIs are looking positive. Visits and visit frequency are up. There are more active members (those who have visited in the last 30 days) as a percentage of total members. Your keen members are visiting more than before, and even the regulars are finding more time to workout and boost their health and fitness. However, the stats look better because there are fewer members. 

Tuesday, 12 October 2021


The fitness industry needs a retention reality check now more than ever. For each club or chain that claims sales are up, and recovery strong, there are several more who are very aware that their membership attrition is rising.
This seems to be more prominent in the public sector, but private, independent, and budget gyms are all feeling the effect, where they are measuring it. Whether from analysis or conversations, clubs that know their numbers recognise the issue.

A big part of the problem is the industry’s blind optimism and eternal focus on sales and new members, rather than engagement, length of stay and customer value.

Optimism is good, and the fact that many members have returned to your club after the enforced closure is great news (although these are not new member sales). Genuine new members are signing up, but you must take a close look at how these new and returning members are getting on before you start signing up more. The more you fill a leaky bucket, the more it leaks!

There are countless explanations as to why more members are leaving at the moment, and it will vary from club to club. But here are the top three reasons we’re seeing from member and client experience and feedback.

Saturday, 11 September 2021


7 in 10 people want to be healthier post pandemic, according to a Public Health England Survey (Jan21). But fewer than 2 in 10 have a gym membership.

Many clubs are struggling to recover their business post lockdown. Your core customers returned quickly, but it is taking time to rebuild confidence across all sectors, not just fitness. Dormant members have not returned. A handful of new joiners are looking to improve their fitness, but many more are needed to meet increased overheads and deferred liabilities. 

New strategies are needed to tap into the health seekers who do not want a gym membership. You need to understand than most people don’t want to go to a gym. But at the same time, most people want to be healthier.

The Health-Check

The appointment can take many forms, but fundamentally, it involves measurement, coaching, and follow-up.

Measurement can be any combination of body composition scales (bioimpedance analysis or BIA), a 3D body scan, or traditional scales, tape measures, etc. To appeal to more health seekers (regular folk, not fitness fanatics), the less intrusive the better. Think about standing on scales while holding handles versus wearing tight clothing versus skinfold callipers.

The appointment then moves to coaching. This typically involves explaining the specific measurements that are relevant to each client, listening to their goals, and helping them to build themselves a plan for activity, nutrition, or lifestyle.

Lastly, it’s time to book the follow-up appointment. When would they like their next measure – in one month, or two- or three-months’ time? Most go for monthly measures and coaching appointments to keep them on track and to see results.

A Recovery Strategy

The health-check appointment is a great offer to bring members back into the facility. Some clubs are charging for this (£20-50), others are offering a limited number of funded appointments to selected ex-members, leads or prospects. 

The focus is not on re-joining the gym. All messaging clearly states that this is not the goal, some clubs even say the gym is at capacity. 

Boost Confidence and Future-Proof Business

Offering one-on-one appointments helps to bring people into the club at a time they are comfortable with. Depending on your set-up, the client doesn’t need to visit the busy gym floor or attend a crowded fitness class.

In the unhappy event of future lockdowns, there’s a chance that one-on-one appointments could continue (as with individual PT or other health appointments). So, health-checks help to future proof your business, to continue offering services and stay in touch with all your members going forwards.

Build New Business Streams

There is no need to sell the gym to your health-check subscribers. They know you have a gym. If they want to run on a treadmill or lift weights, they know where to come. 

However, you can sell a plethora of add-on services to support and grow your health-seeker business. Coaching around lifestyle, nutrition, sleep, and activity will help clients to work towards their goals. Supplements and food could be sold direct from the club, or in conjunction with a local or national distributor. 

Think about exercise equipment, programmes, and plans (don’t send your members to Argos or Sports Direct). Provide access to your online classes, workouts, tips, trackers, logs (or create new ones). These services and products will help your new members and existing members to get more value, ensure they come back for their measurements and stick around longer.

Grow Healthy Communities 

All these schemes can help clients individually or in communities. You already have your in-club member community. Now there’s an opportunity to bring more people together with common goals and needs, who will support each other and help your groups to grow. The health-check is an entry point into these communities, which will provide added value and retain your subscribers. They don’t need to be a member of the gym, but they are a member of your club.

Health Seeker Strategy

Developing a strong health seeker strategy and getting all staff on board is vital…

  1. Model your programme around your existing staff and technology, or recruit and procure if needed
  2. Set pricing for initial appointment and ongoing subscription
  3. Agree campaign targets, demographics, channels
  4. Discuss additional services and upsell opportunities, define pathways 
  5. Develop staff buy-in, understanding, and personal gains

Staff development and delivery is critical to the success of these programmes. You need the right coaches on board, with the right mindset, and an ability to listen and learn.

Make the switch from a Gym to a Health Club

Talking about health more than fitness will open more ears and generate more leads and prospects for your club. Talk to them about health-checks, and how you support people’s health, and you will win many more members. Mention the gym, or fitness-tests, and many will lose interest.

Download our Health Seekers Playbook or get in touch to discuss how you could attract and retain more health seeker subscribers.

This article was originally published in Gym Owner Monthly Magazine. Click here to read the full issue.

Wednesday, 11 August 2021


Fitness business owners are facing a conundrum at the moment. Booking your gym visit became the new normal for a lot of members during lockdown, but as restrictions ease, should clubs continue to make their members pre-book sessions, or let members visit ad-hoc?

There are a lot of strong opinions and debates on this topic. Customer choice is important, but you also need to consider the business needs and model, and how you can best serve the majority of your members, not just the hardcore (aka the loud ones!)

Sunday, 11 July 2021


There has been a lot of talk of how gyms are essential over the last year. Essential to the physical and mental health of our members. Essential for staying fit. But we are less essential than food delivery drivers. Have you thought about how your club could guarantee staying open for your members in the event of future lockdowns?

We have talked about the non-essential nature of gyms here before, but as lockdowns ease, more and more clubs are developing interesting new ideas and enhancing their offering. These pivots are what will help to both grow those clubs, and make them more essential.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021


Every cloud has a silver lining, and there have been some positive upshots for gyms through the pandemic and resulting lockdowns. A new awareness or refocus on health is a boost for the fitness industry. The acceleration of fitness technology has been fascinating. And there has also been a big shift in the sharing economy. People and businesses have come together more to share and collaborate.

A Common Enemy

Gyms and health clubs, particularly independents, are competing less with one another. The common enemies both in terms of share of time and money are now entertainment services such as Netflix and Disney+, or food delivery services like Just Eat and Deliveroo. 

Independent gyms still contend with the big chains to a certain extent. But post-pandemic, clubs are clearer about their differentiating factors and unique selling points. Small studios and individual trainers are more likely to partner with several other clubs to extend reach, while focusing on their specialism.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021


The fitness industry has buckets of positivity as clubs start to reopen. You need to plug the leaks now more than ever to ensure your fitness business survives.

New member sales at gyms in England have been very encouraging since reopening on 16 April. We expect to see a similar trend across the rest of the UK and Europe as lock-down restrictions are eased. Adding indoor group exercise will also bring a good boost to member numbers.

The fitness industry is enjoying the best April ever... but it's nothing compared with a good January.

You need to do two things to plug the leaks and fill your buckets. But first, let’s consider the problems…

Saturday, 1 May 2021

State of Independents Report: shows good independent gym sector recovery in second half of 2020

I have wanted to explore and compare membership retention at independent fitness clubs for some time. Gym owners who know and care about their members deliver incredible customer service, and this report shows how that pays dividends, even during a pandemic.

Click here to download the report.

In the UK, SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) represent 99.3% of total private businesses, account for half of private sector turnover, and employ 3/5 of the workforce. A company is defined as being a UK SME if it meets two out of three criteria: a turnover of less than £25m, fewer than 250 employees, gross assets of less than £12.5m.

Monday, 26 April 2021



But with only 15% market penetration (and even fewer visiting over the last year), gyms are simply not shining brightly enough on the radar, no matter how loud we shout about it.

Supermarkets and delivery companies are essential. Doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies are essential. Public transport is essential for essential workers. Mental health support can be found in hairdressers, cinemas, record shops and gyms, but unfortunately, they are not essential. Take-away coffee shops fall somewhere in between, which is nice.

A Public Health England Survey says that 7 in 10 people want to make healthier choices in 2021. 

We need to change our tune.