For smaller gyms, deal with the expansion of pandemic meats

This article is part Own the future, A series on how SMEs across the country are affected by pandemics.

Owner Kari Saitowitz on the evening of March 14, 2020 fitting roomWhen I returned from eating out at three small or “boutique” fitness studios in Manhattan, I found a disturbing message. A college friend who is a pulmonologist at the New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital emailed an amazing number of cases of new infectious respiratory diseases they were seeing.

“This message said,’Please take it seriously,'” recalls Saitowitz. “And he specifically said,’Kari, you probably need to close the gym for a while.'”

The next morning she received an email from two senior trainers who were teaching classes the day before. They were also worried not only about their own safety, but also about their customers, including older ones.

“That was a turning point,” she said. After convening a group of full-time and part-time employees, including trainers and cleaning staff, she decided to close the studio. That afternoon she sent an email to the members stating that “for the health of our community”, the fitting room would be temporarily closed.

The next day, March 16th, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Announced Closure of all gyms, restaurants, bars, theaters and casinos.

Today, Ms. Saitowitz, like many other small business owners, faces another urgent decision. “How can I keep my business alive?”

The key she decided was to find a way to keep delivering what the customer wanted, that is, what the customer wanted. Really I wanted. “This is more than just training,” she said. “People come here for conversation, socializing, class fun and motivation.”

How could she reproduce it when the gym was closed?

The answer is Saitowitz and other boutique fitness gyms — as in Pilates and yoga studios, indoor cycling-focused facilities, or fitting rooms (named HIT play, but an acronym for high-intensity training). , Group Fitness Class — Was to quickly expand the way we serve our services. An approach that some industries now call “omni-channel.”

For Saitowitz, that meant strengthening the creation of an on-demand video library for training, switching live classes to Zoom, and signing a partnership with a retailer in September. Showfield Use the rooftop event space of the Bond Street Building to hold outdoor classes at a social distance.

All of that influenced the members. “I used to go about three times a week before the pandemic,” said Susanne Bruderman of Manhattan, who has been a member of the fitting room since it opened six years ago. “When the pandemic happened, all my behavior changed and I basically became a habit of five days a week.”

However, all these changes required more than a Zoom tutorial. Since then, the industry, which has been delivering products in essentially the same way, has had to radically change its mindset. Vic Tanny’s first “health club” Opened in the 30’s of the Showa era.

“Before the pandemic, customers had to visit physical stores to consume their products,” said Julian Barnes, CEO. Boutique fitness solution, A small gym and fitness studio advisory company. The new multi-channel approach “means that clients meet wherever they are,” he said. “If she wants to work out live, give her the ability to attend classes live. If she wants to exercise at 2am, take a video of her favorite class and let her do it. If she wants to exercise outdoors, give her the ability. “

Prior to the pandemic, Burns estimated that there were about 70,000 of these small gyms and studios in the United States. “Many of them have moved away from their original business model,” Seattle-based. Said Tricia Murphy Madden, Director of National Education. Savier Fitness, Fitness products and education company. “What I’m seeing now is that if you act the same as you did 16 months ago, you won’t survive.”

When Jim in Texas was ordered to shut down, founder and president Jess Hughes said Citizen PilatesDecided to keep three Houston studios open. Using only the iPhone and ringlight, Ms. Hughes and a few instructors started making video workouts in the studio. The on-demand Citizen Virtual catalog contains over 100 home workouts accessible from any device with a paid subscription ($ 19 / month). She then expanded her product through a partnership with. Jet Sweet, Fitness on-demand library with 28,000 monthly subscribers.

Being online allowed them to expand beyond their individual customers. “We also started a virtual private enterprise class with Zoom,” said Ms. Hughes. These weekly classes helped many employees of Houston’s mid-sized businesses stay fit and share their experiences while working remotely.

She also launched branded apparel with slogans such as “Citizen Strong.” It proved particularly popular when the studio was reopened with restrictions in May. Moving all equipment 6 feet apart reduced the total capacity by 30%. (“We received zero rent bailouts from every landlord,” she added.) However, Hughes managed to increase membership by 22%. Most of them are local. “What I mean is that we had brand consistency, but socially distanced,” she said.

Social distance was not enough for Matt Espew. Fit body boot camp Jim of Providence when the new coronavirus infection surged in Rhode Island. Like Saitowitz and Hughes, Espeut was determined to continue his business and felt that offering new services was the way to go. Since weight loss is a major part of his Jim’s mission, he invested a Small and Medium Business loan in the cost of a medical-grade body scan machine to measure body composition. “Now we can focus on people who are losing fat and gaining muscle,” he said.

Espate was conceived a year ago by offering a $ 6,000 machine, additional nutritional counseling (including supplements sold in the gym and online), and many new classes at a social distance. I was able to achieve what I didn’t have. Membership increased by 15% from 170 to 196.

He added another one after the reopening in January. It’s a new decoration, including new paint and new floor mats. “I think people want to forget about 2020,” he said. “I wanted people to see immediately that things were different.”

Expanding to different channels is still a way to achieve your goals, but for many small gyms, returning everyone to a space that workout enthusiasts love to share.

“I didn’t panic at first,” he said. Spin City, Indoor Cycling Studio in Massapequa Park, NY “We were doing a healthy business, but I thought it would be temporary.” But when the blockade was extended until April, “panic began. O’Rourke is now offering member-only YouTube workouts by instructors. During the summer it expanded to include outdoor classes in the parking lot.

Early in the lockdown, O’Rourke came up with another idea when he was looking into an empty studio. “All these bikes were sitting there doing nothing,” she said. “That’s why I decided to lend it to members.” Some studios leased bicycles, kettlebells, and other equipment, but Spin City rented them for free.

“I had the members provide me with money,” she said. “But we turned them down. As you know, they contributed to our success and during the pandemic you made everyone feel bad. They don’t need another cost. was.”

A year after the pandemic began, Spin City gained a total of 50 members, in addition to the pre-pandemic 275 to 300 members. All the bikes are back in the studio, but 6 feet away. O’Rourke speculates what would have happened if he hadn’t opened these new channels.

“Everyone would have bought Peloton,” she laughed.

For smaller gyms, deal with the expansion of pandemic meats

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