Last week, New Jersey lifted indoor capacity restrictions for gyms to 50%. This week, New York City resumes fitness classes for yoga and Pilates enthusiasts. The East Coast moves follow similar recent reopenings for health clubs in other parts of the country, such as California.
It’s been a long-awaited return to normalcy for gyms, which saw revenues plummet and many locations shutter during the pandemic.
“The industry as a whole has taken a beating,” says Rick Caro, president of health club consulting firm Management Vision, noting that fitness purveyors don’t have the same lobbying clout in Washington, D.C. as restaurants, hotels and airlines.
Adding to the challenge for health clubs is the rise of at-home fitness purveyors such as Peloton, Mirror, Hydrow and Tonal, which have skyrocketed in popularity as locked-down consumers, eager to exercise, invested in their own equipment. Peloton sales blew so far past expectations in 2020 that the brand turned off marketing early on during COVID-19. In its most recent quarter, sales grew 128% to $1.1 billion. Interactive home device Mirror, which Lululemon purchased last summer for $500 million, is now selling in the retailer’s stores and performed well over the holidays, according to brand executives.
Now, gyms have to roll out more than just a “Welcome Back!” mat. They have to work to reconnect with consumers who have turned to other fitness brands during the pandemic.
They also have to convince members that their clubs are as safe as homes for workouts, and that rigorous COVID-19 protocols are followed. Some, like Planet Fitness, which introduced a “United We Move” campaign with digital workouts last March shortly after the coronavirus caused lockdowns, are using humor to market their messages. Equinox recently switched up its marketing structure to give more control to a new in-house studio, which can react quickly to trends and pursue “always on” messaging. OrangeTheory is stressing the value of personalized coaching in a gym environment.