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IHRSA analysis emphasises why fitness clubs need small group training

IHRSA analysis emphasises why fitness clubs need small group training
April 25, 2019

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) has published advice on why small group training is essential for fitness clubs in building revenue and member engagement. Writing on the IHRSA website, Jim Schmaltz advises that “if your health (fitness) club doesn’t have small group training (SGT), you’re missing out on one of the most powerful engagement and retention tools in the industry.”

Schmaltz advises that the IHRSA Fitness Training Report shows that nearly 18 million health club members in the USA engaged in SGT in 2016, which includes more than 26% of members in fitness-only facilities. Among multipurpose club, almost 20% of members engage in SGT while, for studios, that number jumps to 36% of members.

He writes “what’s more important than those totals, which continue to climb, is the demographic being drawn to these classes. The IHRSA Fitness Training Report found that almost half of all Generation Z members - ages six to 17 years old - signed up for SGT classes, and millennials account for 37.4% of all SGT participation. SGT classes are predominantly female, with 61% of attendees being women. IHRSA’s report also found that SGT penetrates into every ethnic category.

“Many studios base their entire programing on SGT and larger group X classes. This includes the enormously successful Orangetheory chain. Recently, it was reported that Orangetheory global revenues had surpassed $1 billion in 2018. Considering that those who belong to studios spend more money on their clubs than those in multipurpose facilities, you begin to understand how SGT can be a revenue engine for clubs of all types.

“It’s also important for recruitment and retention. With younger demographics choosing SGT options, your future could depend on providing these workouts on a regular basis.”

What Makes a Successful Small Group Training Program?
In an IHRSA video called ‘Beating Back Boutiques’, Chris Stevenson, owner of Stevenson Fitness, and Marisa Hoff, General Manager of Stevenson Fitness, explain how they benefitted from their investment in SGT.

Stevenson, a speaker at the recent FILEX Convention in Sydney, advised “one thing we noticed industry trend-wise was that one-on-one training was starting to decline and there was an emergence of small group training.

“So as soon as we caught on to that trend, we made sure to put it into our program because we knew that was a big part of where the industry was headed.”

Stevenson and Hoff found that after introducing SGT into their schedule that the social interaction encouraged by the classes increased member retention, engagement, and referrals, commenting “group exercise is absolutely huge for member retention.

“It’s a great way for people to interact with each other, to get instruction, and it’s often more cost-effective.”

While some owners worry about the investment into SGT, especially if they have limited space, Stevenson and Hoff found that it’s a revenue engine for their club.

Hoff advised “one of the great things about having the boutique studios in our marketplace is that it made it OK to charge for additional services.

“Before it used to be one price, you get everything. But now members are used to paying for Orangetheory, SoulCycle, and additional services. So, it made it OK for us to start doing that, and that really helps to build revenue.”

Stevenson also believes that you can learn a lot from your local community’s boutique clubs, adding “you have to do a lot to stay relevant, and I think incorporating things like small group training and taking some of the best practices of these more successful studios are key for you to continue to be successful.

“The one thing that boutiques don’t have to offer are those things that you as a bigger club can offer.”

Here Stevenson cites locker rooms, showers, numerous equipment options, and a greater diversity of large group X and SGT programming.

Jim Schmaltz is a US-based writer and editor with more than 25 years in the health and fitness industry. He worked at Flex magazine from 1994 to 2004.

Images: Small group training at Fitness First (top) and Orangetheory (below)

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31st January 2019 - MINDBODY named 2019 IHRSA Associate Member of the Year

2nd January 2019 - IHRSA highlights role of fitness clubs in supporting all needs and abilities

31st December 2018 - IHRSA resource Gives Clubs Tools to Help Members Lose Weight

16th October 2018 - IHRSA China Management Forum to chart massive opportunities for fitness industry growth

4th August 2017 - Collective Wellness Group energises Orangetheory Fitness in Australia

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