// What will the fitness industry look like in 2016?

Failing to plan is planning to fail, or so the saying goes. It pays to predict the future in order to implement strategies today that will place your fitness business in a stronger position tomorrow. Here, Justin Tamsett highlights some key predictions from the recent 2011 FILEX Business Summit panel discussion.

The annual FILEX Business Summit Panel discussion has become something of an institution, with industry leaders fielding questions on pressing fitness business topics. This year was no different, with the tradition of controversy raging as we asked five experts to gaze into their crystal balls to make their predictions regarding the following issues:

  • What will the topography or make up of the industry to be in 2016? (style of clubs, make up of clubs, etc)
  • Where will personal training will sit in the service offering?
  • What will membership prices will look like?
  • What will the actual workout experience be like for the 2016 member?
  • What technology will be seen in clubs by 2016?

The expert panel comprised Tony de Leede, CEO of Fit n Fast (and formerly of Fitness First Australia); Jad Raguz, Managing Director of New Dimensions; Emmett Williams from MYZONE; Jess Giampaolo, Managing Director of Energy Fitness; and Trent Brown, CEO of Ezypay. In their own right, each member of the panel is an expert and visionary with vast amounts of experience.

The mediocre shall not inherit the earth

Although each has their area of specialty knowledge, and their opinions on certain aspects differed, what was quite amazing was their shared belief of the style of club that will be dominant in 2016. Unanimously, the panel agreed that if you are an average club offering average service, you will be non-existent by 2016. Put simply, it was agreed that the major chains will continue to grow, and as a result there will be some rationalisation. If your club sits in the middle as neither high service with a high priced membership or lowest price, then your future may not be bright.

The advice from the experts was ‘get a niche’! Work hard to develop a unique reason why people will join your club and remain a member. Interestingly, there was general agreement that the key to doing this lay in the personal training, and more importantly group personal training, offering of your facility.

Your PT product offering must have strong leadership

The experts were divided in their predictions regarding the dominant PT model, i.e., outsourcing personal training to contractors, or employing trainers as staff, but all agreed that in order to develop the personal training product within a club, somebody needs to be in charge; it cannot be left to find its way organically. Someone must be employed – in whatever model – to drive and be accountable for this aspect of your business.

You shouldn’t bank on joining fees

Income stream alert! Many of the experts questioned whether joining fees would still be around in 2016 – at least in name! There was agreement that, if joining fees go by the wayside in a bid to overcome a perceived obstacle to joining, clubs will start charging other fees in their place. This will, in fact, be the key to generating more ‘cash’ at point of sale, by having new members invest more through a variety of add ons.

Sales of PT services may be more heavily integrated into memberships

Emmett shared an interesting – and highly profitable – model that is proving very successful in the US. Many clubs stateside are now approaching sales in a more prescriptive manner, telling customers that in addition to their membership, they need to train with a PT three times a week, and even advising they use certain supplements (which can be delivered directly to them). The result is a higher emotional sale and, of course, a much higher yield sale. Currently in Australia, a few personal training businesses operate like this, but it is not prevalent within clubs.

Embrace technology, but keep the personal touch

When it came to the question of whether technology will be the key to the future, the panel was somewhat divided. The business generation, member recruitment and retention possibilities afforded by Facebook, Twitter, member management software and MYZONE, among others, were all discussed, with some being stronger advocates of these than others. Both Jad and Jess, however, reinforced the important point that our industry is about people, and that people will want to deal with people. Their view was that while there is a place for technology, it should be used to complement, but never replace, staff. The future, they argued, will be about helping our team members work better for our members.

It is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of any club owner or manager to look to the future, but this is what great business people do. They look for future trends. They look outside their industry. They regularly meet and speak with their peers to compare what is happening and what they believe will happen. It’s no coincidence that these great businesses stay ahead of the rest of the industry.

If you want to be ready for 2016, you need to start making some strategic decisions now.

Justin Tamsett, BEd
An industry stalwart since 1988, Justin received Fitness Australia’s Presidential Award for Industry Contribution in 2006. He has been facilitating the Australian Fitness Round Table program since 2004, and as managing director of Active Management, he consults with clubs in sales, customer service, retention and marketing. He was named Australian Fitness Network’s Presenter of the Year in 2008.