If your club’s equipment isn’t up to snuff, you’re neglecting a critical part of a successful renovation.
If you run a busy health club with great retention numbers, congratulations. Also, get ready to take out your checkbook.
There’s no getting around it: You’re going to have to upgrade your equipment and other facility services sooner than later if you have a high-traffic club. But even if you have a smaller, more exclusive clientele, you can’t fall behind the competition by keeping aging equipment on the floor. You want your brand associated with the newest and the best—within your budget, of course.
So, when should you upgrade your equipment? Industry veteran Brent Darden of Brent Darden consulting believes that health clubs are under more pressure in today’s marketplace to maintain a competitive edge. Writing in Club Business International, he says: “Facilities, programming, services, and equipment have to evolve and present a fresh value proposition to survive.”
Change you must. But when do you know when it’s the right time to invest hard-earned capital back into your business? And how much do you invest to insure a healthy ROI?
Taking Stock of the Gym Floor
Darden recommends you make a thorough inspection of your club’s inventory. For instance:
- Go back over your books and see when you last invested in new equipment. When did your last significant investment take place?
- Look at the numbers. Today’s data efficiencies can help clubs determine what’s being utilized by members and what’s being ignored on the gym floor.
- Do a walk-through of all exercise equipment areas. Is there any noticeably outdated equipment?
- What are your repair and maintenance costs? If you’re overspending on fixing older equipment, then new equipment could provide a cost-benefit upgrade while improving your club’s appeal to members.
- Talk to staff and personal trainers to see if you have inadequate equipment for today’s fitness programming. If you can do a survey with members, see what they say about your equipment choices.
Machines with LCD screens and Bluetooth are only part of the equation. As Darden explains, maintaining and upgrading equipment extends beyond the cardio floor. Resistance machines and free weights need to reflect the same standards of quality of your other equipment offerings.
Says Darden: “Although most strength equipment can last a lifetime—it shouldn’t. The condition of equipment speaks volumes about the tired/outdated status of the overall facility.”
How Free Weights Impact Your Brand Image
Beware the corrosive effect of old free weight equipment. If your health club is like most, your free weights are strewn about the gym floor (weight re-racking is a constant struggle). If you have shabby looking old dumbbells and barbells, you have a shabby looking gym.
This is important since use of free weights is increasing. According to the IHRSA Health Club Business Handbook, 70% of male members use free weights regularly. And female members are catching up. With the growing popularity of functional fitness, which is heavy on multiple Olympic barbell lifts and other free-weight exercises, more women are utilizing free weights. Ten years ago, you’d rarely see a woman in the squat rack. Now it’s a common sight. This is a positive development, but it’s putting more wear and tear on your equipment.
Free weights are especially valued by perhaps the most important demographic populating health clubs: Generation X. According to the IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, Generation X (those aged 35-54) accounts for 40% of core membership, and this age group cites “free weights (barbells and dumbbells)” second on their list of preferred club activities.
Your free-weight inventory is highly visible to current and prospective members during all hours of operation. Clubs often gain a branding advantage by contracting with a manufacturer to add their club name and logo to plates. A new set of free weights can go a long way to refreshing your entire club.
Club operators should approach purchase of free weights with the same care and attention they put into shopping for new cardio equipment. Instead of outsourcing purchasing decisions to suppliers who focus on cardio equipment and carry free weights as an add-on, seek out consultants who specialize in free weights.