June 10

Death of the corporate gym membership?

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The fitness industry (along with many other service-based sectors) is confused. Effectively it does not know its ear from its elbow right now.

Gym owners across the planet have had the carpet pulled out and much like pubs and restaurants are wondering how they can re-create the buzz, the energy and the loyal customer base that they worked so hard to acquire in the first place.

Let us be plain here, all gyms are struggling. But none more so than the volume gyms. Needing either for a lot of members to be paying monthly (with a large number never going) or for a room full of a lot of people all at the same time (think classes.)

Where does this leave corporate gyms? The Nuffield’s, the David Lloyds, the Pure Gyms.

Let us get a little more specific here (apologies for anyone reading this that does not live in or around London.) Let us talk about the city of London. There are roughly 500,000 people that work in the city, many 40 flights up above the hustle and bustle of the streets below.

Through our experience we know that companies generally are willing to pay around £50 a month towards each of their employee’s gym memberships. Usually activated through an online portal, they can organise a corporate membership, through Virgin Active, David Lloyd etc.

Now there are going to be two huge issues going forward for this model, a model that had been around for decades.

1) Keeping our ear to the ground, most of our clients state that they are not going to be sending their teams back into the city until September, some not until 2021. Second to this, how will companies even send their teams back? With all the challenges ahead, public transport at a reduced capacity, social distancing, face coverings in meetings, getting people safely into lifts and up to the top The Heron Tower!?

So, the fact remains, the city will be much quieter. Teams may have to work in shifts, early, late or day on day off, 4 days on, 3 days off? Or perhaps companies will be discovering that they can run their business with >50% of their staff at home, saving them a ton of money on travel, lunches and other expenses.

2) Are city workers going to be keen on flooding back to their city-based gym? Normally you find that city gym goers are getting on the train early and hitting the gym around 6:30/ 07:00, at lunch time, or after work around 18:00. Go to Pure gym at Aldgate at 10am, it is a ghost town. So with the large majority of the gym usage being condensed into a 5 hour daily window, is it feasible for these gym’s to thrive when they will not be able to operate at full capacity and their members might not even not want to return. Especially with the showers closed and members needing to exercise and go straight into meetings.

It is a conundrum and not one that I am able to answer. In fact, on reflection it is a bit of a scary proposition for the industry as whole.

It is clear though that workforces need to exercise, especially in the city where deadlines are tight, pressure is high, and hours are long. The only thing that we know to be true is that virtual solutions are going to be THE only completely safe alternative to the normal corporate gym membership. Companies need to formulate a way of keeping their teams healthy, happy, engaged and moral high. At a time when we look back at the simple things like 20 minutes on a Cross trainer and smile to ourselves. Simpler times.

Cameron Harris, Co-founder TRUTH


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