Focus On Retention


Maintaining Interest With Your Club's Layout

One thing we could learn from other retail-type industries is successful merchandising. The key to selling a shirt or a box of cereal or any other item is to merchandise it properly according to the market's needs.

Do we merchandise our product (a club membership) well enough? Does someone visiting our club want to try it on to see how it fits immediately? Are we taking advantage of the “impulse buy” by placing our other profit centers in optimal locations?

I have found there isn't a special way of setting up that will make your membership or product sales boom instantly. What I have found is that clubs must adapt or change with the changing needs of the marketplace.

Designed for (Sales) Comfort

Several times a year, I walk through my clubs with an objective eye and ask myself questions. For starters, I consider whether my sales process (how we tour and sell memberships) is comfortable to potential new members.

Remember long ago when clubs used to have membership offices behind closed doors, down dark hallways, where salespeople could sequester potential candidates and coerce them into joining? Eventually, many clubs saw the light and went to open offices or cubicles with views of the club where the energy would stir the potential member into joining.

It seems sales psychology trends keep changing. In my recent visits to state-of-the-art clubs, I have seen sales desks dispersed throughout the club, out in the open, or member lounge areas used as sales areas. I have even witnessed computerized kiosks where people can casually walk up and join the club.

The key salient feature in all of these examples is the simple atmosphere clubs want to portray when enrolling new members. We want prospects to feel good about their decisions to get fit and healthy; we don't want them to feel coerced into becoming club members.

The layout of the sales area influences membership sales, but other layout factors come into play after someone joins. What about the overall layout of the club itself? How does it affect retention and additional profit centers?

I take all of this into account when I examine my clubs several times a year, asking: Is my club layout convenient for members' workouts? Does my club feature the items that members most likely want to purchase?

This takes me back to the beginning of this article and the idea of proper merchandising according to the market's needs. Do you know what your membership is? Is it mostly male or female? Ages 20-25 or older? Does it consist predominantly of businesspeople?

Knowing who your primary customer is (or who you want it to be) will enable you to merchandise your club for optimal selling. By displaying your product (your club) optimally, you encourage potential customers to buy it. And keep it.

If you have a large percentage of female population (or want to increase your percentage), then don't put your free weights (which can intimidate women) in the front of the club. If you have a stronger corporate clientele, put your towel service and business and shower amenities in the forefront of the pro shop/front desk area where they are quickly accessible. If you serve a large college student population, stock your pro shop with lower-priced T-shirts and baseball caps that they can easily purchase on their way out. Also, make sure your tanning programs are in clear view for the college students to use them.

Get Ready for Change

You must change to or adapt with the transitions in the market if you want to stay progressive. So be prepared to make some changes.

Is your customer base the same as it was 10 years ago? Have your club's memberships or profit centers increased in those 10 years? If not, is it because you only catered to that original type of member and never made any changes to encourage the development/retention of other customer types?

Changing how we do things in a club can be difficult. Some of these changes may involve major structural remodeling, such as replacing your front desk or relocating your pro shop in order to make it easier for members to pick up an item they want to purchase.

If members have to ask an employee to get them an item from behind the front desk, they'll probably pass on it when they are in a hurry. Therefore, put coolers with drinks on your way in and out, not behind a desk. This is a simple adjustment, yet simple adjustments may be all you need to make.

You can change the direction of your traffic flow so that members have to go through your pro shop to get into the club. You can move your equipment so members can find machines easier. You can also make the location of your other profit centers, such as tanning or massage therapy, more visible and accessible. Even small changes can make huge differences in sales and retention.

So step back, take on the eye of an outsider, be critical and make changes! These will probably not be the last changes you will make, but they may be changes for the better. If not, change again.

Teresa Burke is the co-owner of two Gold's Gyms in southeast Pennsylvania (Conshohocken and King of Prussia). She can be contacted at [email protected]

Walk through your club with a critical eye and ask yourself…

  • Is my sales process comfortable to potential new members?
  • Is my club layout convenient for my members' workouts?

  • Does my club feature the items my members are most likely to want to purchase?

  • Can my members easily get the items they want to buy?

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