Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January ain't what it used to be.

Why the January gym rush wont happen this year.

There was a time in the fitness industry when everyone waited for January.

Sales targets were cranked up and everyone braced themselves. Most of the years finances were dependent on the first 2 months of the year.

People keep asking me if it is busy yet, are all the new people taking over all the equipment. The answer as always at the start of January is no.

The first 2 weeks of January in my experience are never that busy anyway. People stay away because they think it will be busy or they are still at home finishing off the last of the Baileys and Stilton before they can start their exercise plan.

The people you see in the gyms in January are normally returning members, people upping their number of visits, not substantially new people. Most of the people you seen in the gym in January are the people you saw all year round, they are just visiting more.

Everyone is posting up memes on social media of the January gym rush. Everyone expects it to happen, but it hasn't really happened like that in a few years. Everyone hypes it up, and this may put people off coming because they think it's going to be crowded.

This probably wont happen. Source: every fitness person on the internet

I don't think the rush is going to happen. The last couple of years I've noticed the rush in January isn't as big, and there is a much more even pattern of people joining throughout the year.

The busiest I've seen the gym I work in is actually in August, with all the students returning and working out.

I was training in a budget gym this morning, which has over 4000 members, it was quieter than normal. The same gym in December on a Wednesday afternoon, you couldn't move in the weights area for bro's.

Possibly, the public have got wise. The industry is now relatively old. Twenty years ago, no joining fees and joining a gym were a novelty. Now, the discounts are old hat, and most of the public are not so wedded to the idea of joining a gym in January. They have either 1) already joined one and stayed 2) Or have joined and dropped out so many time they realize this is not going to work for them.

I could be overestimating the mood of the general populous. As I would have thought everyone would have got wise to Boxing Day, Black Friday, January sales but they patently have not.

The market is also increasingly fragmented, 15 years ago, you either joined one of the big health club chains (Esporta, LA Fitness, Canons, Holmes Place - remember them?) or your local leisure centre or sat at home with your Davina workout DVD.

Now you can join a budget gym, sign up to 30 days of yoga for free on youtube, join a crossfit gym, go to a yoga studio, do clubbercise in your local hall, join a local micro gym, go to a PT studio, find a local PT online (with a professional looking website), buy a programme online, do a bootcamp in the park, have a gym in your garage, download an app, go for a run, buy a bicycle and joining a club or go for a walk.

A personal trainer friend of mine recently said January is good for gyms but not so good for PTs, people join gyms thinking they can do it themselves, realize they can't and then find a PT in March. He could be right.

I think January may not be so good for gyms anymore.

This is a good thing, as an industry and model we have matured, we have a more even stream of income throughout the year. We are not cashing in so much on broken dreams and promises.

I've noticed more and more gyms, local and multi site now offering 3 day and 5 day passes to entice people in, it seems to have overtaken the no joining fee sale. Probably because no joining fee is now available all year round, and no one sees it as a special offer anymore.

But the people who use your free pass in January are essentially the same people who use it the rest of the year (unless you are in a large town with a large turn over of population and a transient workforce).

In most gyms now, the cardio equipment is hardly ever all in use. The weights areas are full. You don't see anyone putting their towel on the screen to cover up the time, next to the sticker that says 20 mins only on a treadmill. The queue is for the power rack now*

This implies to me that most gym users are 'experienced' in some fashion, most newbies steer clear of freeweights areas and stick to cardio.

The people who go to the gym, go more and get more value for money, and the people who don't go, don't go at all.

The exception to this may be the budget gyms, that rely on 5,000 people not all turning up at the same time.

Something is shifting, the paradigm is changing, and something is going to happen but I'm not sure what yet.

Fitness companies and trade magazines will naturally remain buoyant in their appraisal of January and February and the market penetration and number of people joining. But that doesn't help move things on.

I hope when sales targets are missed and income levels drop, companies don't try and do more of the same, make more calls, give out more free passes. The game has changed. The strategy needs to change too.

Of course, I could be wrong. You could go to the gym next week and it is full of newbies and all the equipment is in use. In which case, welcome them, we were all beginners once.

*Freeweight areas are much busier and cardio areas much quieter in gyms: I've noticed this in the gym I work at, a local independent gym but more importantly at a large budget gym I go to. This budget gym has a whole floor of cardio equipment, 20 plus treadmills etc, and it is hardly ever more than half full, and mostly empty. Whereas, the floor with all the resistance machines and freeweights can be very busy and full. Walking in this gym, it is like going back 20 years, the cardio area is mainly women and older people, the weights area is 99% young guys with the occasional women venturing in; hats off to them for not being intimidated by the bro 'love in' and skinny jogging bottoms. I'm pleased to say where I work the freeweights area has just as many women in it and sometimes more women than men, all credit to the coaching team for achieving this. It's easy to forget that some parts of the industry haven't moved on and certain things are still not the norm.

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