Competition comes from all places in the health club industry.
Low-price clubs, boutique gyms, mobile applications and even church-based fitness offerings have put pressure on mainstream clubs to better adapt to consumer desires in recent years. Health clubs struggling with competition can take two paths to brand differentiation, Ray Algar told a Club Industry webinar audience on Thursday. The free webinar, "The Two Pathways of the Fitness Industry: Are You on the Right Course for Success?" sponsored by Precor, is now available for on-demand viewing.
Algar, the managing director of U.K.-based strategic fitness industry research firm Oxygen Consulting, profiled the evolution of the fitness consumer mindset during the last 12 years. The consumer has changed from a "go to the gym" mentality as the primary method to improve physical health to evaluating all other potential choices in the marketplace, Algar said.
"I don't think we now can assume we have a monopoly over how consumers become more active," Algar said. "They have a lot more choices available to them. One route is to interact with the health club industry."
Algar's presentation detailed the consumer choices in the marketplace and examined U.K.-based Fitness First, digital platform ParkRun and SoulCycle as case studies. He showed how low-cost clubs and boutique fitness gyms have thrived in recent years through a comparative strategic analysis of common operational factors. The industry is splitting into two paths: one where consumers are offered a self service type of experience and the other where they are offered a supported experience, Algar said.
"The low-cost gym brands believe in operational efficiency," Algar said. "I think with the supported brands, they believe in what I would characterize as service intimacy. This is where we really need to understand why members are here, and if we want to get them from a certain point, we have to be a core part of making that happen."
The common theme and connection with both potential paths is strategic clarity, Algar noted.
"There is a conviction in the everyday mission," Algar said. "There is a consistency about what the business does, what it does not do and when it decides to do something, it executes to a very, very high level every single day."
Approximately 20 percent of the webinar attendees considered their brands as "self-service" and the other 80 percent identified their brands as "supported" in a live poll conducted by Algar during the presentation.
"I think what is interesting is that there is clearly no right or wrong path," Algar said. "There are brands that we may look at and we may not like what they do, but at least we have to applaud that they have some strategic clarity about them."
Algar's Health Club Industry Mid-Market Report is available for free download on Precor's website.