by Hans Muench
New “compact“ club chain is making its mark in Sweden and Finland.
Number of clubs: 23 clubs in Sweden and two clubs in Finland. Project 32 clubs by February 2014. Twenty clubs opened within their first two years. Clubs are considered “compact“ clubs not “budget“ clubs.
The cost to build each club is approximately 500,000 euros ($665,000 CAD). Breakeven is about 700 members per club, which generally is reached within the first year, sometimes within a few months.
Members: 21,000. Two clubs are reaching capacity which will temporarily close their memberships. A waiting list will be generated and prospects will have two days days to join.
Forty-two percent are female, more than double the original estimate of 20% (no group exercise classes are offered). The average age is 34.
Hours: 5:00 am to midnight.
Equipment: Products such as the Red Cord Trainer and the Thoraxtrainer are in high demand. Originally using Gym80 and a HUR circuit in the pilot club, the new clubs are now outfitted with Precor and My Ride IC with personal screens.
Membership fees: Memberships are purchased online only and cost 295 Norwegian crowns ($50 CAD) per month. A 100 crown ($17 CAD) electronic key fee is charged.
To join, members provide a cell phone number and an email address along with their address and bank details. They are immediately sent a confirmation email and a text message with a code giving them entry into the club. They receive a membership fob from the personal trainer onsite. The trainer performs a quick fitness assessment on the spot or schedules an appointment for a program depending on the new member‘s needs and availability.
Staffing: Three to eight freelance personal trainers per club who pay 300 Euros (400 CAD) per month and keep all revenues. In exchange for this below-market rental fee, they perform functions such as an initial assessment or program. One personal training regional manager oversees five clubs and all scheduling so that overcrowding is avoided.
To deal with the small club footprint, members are encouraged to use all types of machines.
There is typcially at least one personal trainer on site. An intercom system allows members to speak to a live person if there are problems or emergiences.
Member management: A turnstile entry system has bars from floor to ceiling, and cameras monitor the entrance. Multiple visits per day are flagged, and cameras catch members passing their cards to friends. An alarm also sounds when there are two consecutive entries on the same card. Six to eight people are cancelled per month for this. If, for example, management hears that a member brings his dog into the club, a photo is sent to the member with a request to no longer bring his dog.
Contracts are self-administered online. Members can change address, see number of visits, cancel (up to one day before next payment) or freeze their memberships (for a fee), order a new card, etc. Members can choose workout times by viewing real-time capacity graphs by club and time slots.
Software also monitors the number of members using each piece of equipment (13 per day per machine is break even).
Software provides real time information for management (e.g., at 09:30am, six new members have joined since last report).
A new initiative planned for the spring is free personal training for members considered to be in danger of dropping out.
Hans Muench is Directorof Europe for IHRSA, International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. Born in Canada and now based in Munich, Germany, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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