by Matt Weik

2020 has done quite a bit of damage to businesses. So much so that many of them will never open their doors ever again. With the stay-at-home orders, gyms across the country have shut things down, and their owners are left at home staring at the wall, wondering when they can open back up and make some income.

The harsh reality is, on top of the shutdown forcing gyms to close for months, many who had gym memberships flooded the internet to buy up anything and everything they could in terms of fitness equipment so that they could continue working out at home.

While this is great for fitness equipment companies who saw a massive surge in sales, gym owners are left wondering, “What about us?”

Community Gyms Coalition Speaks Out

It’s important to understand the hardship that gyms and gym owners are going through right now. I looked over all of the information that Community Gyms Coalition posted on their website, and I want to share some of the key pieces of information with you as I feel it will open many eyes to just how bad this pandemic has affected these businesses and gyms.

  • Government-mandated shutdowns and operating restrictions have devastated local gyms, with one in four fitness facilities at risk of closing its doors forever.
  • Gyms have been one of the hardest-hit industries by government actions around the pandemic, with higher closure rates than restaurants or bars.
  • Gyms have been unable to fully participate in other federal relief programs due to limitations on the use of funds for standard gym expenses, such as independent instructors.
  • According to Yelp, more than 6,000 fitness facilities are closed already, including 57 percent temporary closures and 43 percent permanent closures, with no end to the pandemic in sight.
  • The nation’s gyms and fitness facilities face higher closure rates than other hard-hit industries, like restaurants and bars, according to Yelp.
  • Based on its respective size, the gym industry has a closure rate nearly five times the restaurant industry and one-third higher than the bar/nightclub industry.
  • Without government help, one-quarter of the 40,000 US fitness facilities could close, according to an analysis by fitness industry association IHRSA.

This information is absolutely stunning. While some of you may not be concerned about these statistics, as you work a normal 9-5 job with a weekly paycheck, those who are business owners only make money when people pay them for their services or products sold. With the shutdown, many gyms have frozen monthly memberships, which means not only do business owners not make any money, but it makes it extremely difficult for them to pay their employees with cash they don’t have flowing in. Not to mention they still have their business overhead to pay for and worry about.

How Will Gyms Move Forward From This?

Gyms make a fair amount of money from members who sign up with good intentions but then never step foot in the gym ever again. Yet, each month, money is withdrawn from their bank account for monthly membership dues. While good gym owners want people in their gyms working out, there are some who have the mentality where they don’t care if people show up or not after they sign on the dotted line.

Those gym owners who didn’t care if people showed up or not are probably rethinking their stance now. With the shutdown and people looking to minimize their expenses, many gym memberships have been canceled. Gyms will now need to spend an ungodly amount of money on marketing to try to get people back through the doors to sign up.

Where do gyms go from here? It’s going to be an uphill battle, and gym owners will need to get creative – more so now than they ever were. Those $50+ per month members could be looking more closely at those $10 per month memberships now and may jump ship. How will gyms retain members as well as pull in new business?

One thing could be offering new services or amenities that will now be included in a membership price. For instance, Life Time locations will be implementing a first of its kind rollout of Apple Fitness+ to its members. There are 150 Life Time locations, and this new integration of Apple Fitness+ will allow members to utilize their Apple Watch, iPhone, and iPad to track their workouts as well as gain access to free workout content to help them stay motivated and focused.

Will some gyms need to rethink their membership structure and offer different options at varying costs? Maybe gyms need to lower their pricing to stay competitive with many of the $10 gyms out there? Perhaps many gyms will scrounge some money to invest in new equipment, fresh paint, and updates to the facility?

The bottom line here is that gyms are looking at an uphill battle. While the diehard fitness enthusiasts are twitching at the thought of gyms being fully operational again, the reality is that with the number of gym memberships that have been canceled can definitely cause gyms and gym owners some concerning hardships in 2021.

Going backward to move forward may be the only way for these gyms to survive. And while the thought of dumping money into the gym when you’ve already lost so much from the shutdown probably isn’t on a gym owner’s list of wants, it could be a necessary evil if they want to grow their business again and survive.