A Talk With Gale Landers


IHRSA's president is prepared for industry growth.

BOSTON - Concurrent with becoming the new president of IHRSA, Gale Landers witnessed another change within the organization: a new mission statement. "To grow, protect and promote the industry and to provide its members with benefits that will help them be more successful." That's the modern IHRSA mantra.

What does it mean exactly? Landers -who, in addition to his IHRSA responsibilities, fills his days as the CEO and president of Fitness Formula, a six-club chain in the Chicago area - answers that this statement catapults IHRSA from trade association to industry association. From this position, IHRSA can drive the health and fitness market, creating opportunities for club owners, club employees, vendors and investors.

Those familiar with IHRSA initiatives know that the organization is already starting this drive with its efforts to grow club membership to 50 million nationally and 100 million internationally by the year 2010. To help make this happen, IHRSA has isolated 10 "mega-opportunities," such as seniors, special opportunities and other markets with little penetration. Landers and IHRSA's board are now implementing plans to capture these 10 niches.

"That's a big push, a high priority," Landers noted.

The "50 million by 2010" movement may be the cornerstone of IHRSA the industry association, but the organization is building upon that with other marketing undertakings. IHRSA has partnered with a trend research company that will examine the buying patterns of health club members, breaking the data down by key demographics. By understanding the consumer, clubs can theoretically use the information to increase sales.

Along with the push to bolster club growth on U.S. soil, IHRSA is expanding its influence to all corners of the map with 2,000 international members. The organization has established international offices in Boston and Germany, and continues to sponsor tours to other continents, such as Asia and South America. These tours encourage the spread of ideas and partnerships among clubs owners and vendors worldwide, according to Landers.

Back at home, IHRSA has stepped up its political initiatives by pushing new government relations programs. The association has joined health and fitness stalwarts in the Industry Leadership Council, a young grassroots organization dedicated to issues such as tax exemption and fair competition. The council has already raised $1 million to target public policy.

As an example of its political stance, IHRSA has pledged support to the PEP (Physical Education for Progress) Act, introduced by Sen. Ted Stevens, (R., Alaska), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Stevens is seeking $400 million to fund physical education programs in schools. IHRSA is asking the entire industry to support this act.

The passage of PEP may not appear to have any direct benefit for the industry. However, by giving children the opportunity to get active, the act creates a new generation of future club members. This is the type of forward thinking that IHRSA, as an industry association, wants to promote.

"We're not just growing IHRSA club members, but growing the industry," Landers said. "Everybody wins."

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