As pandemic recedes, health clubs struggle with member comfort | Business News

Beatrice J. Doty

Now fewer than half of small gyms and fitness studios expect to survive 2021 without federal support.

Location matters

Attendance depends a lot on location, said Ray O’Connor, CEO of the Wisconsin Athletic Club, the largest private health club in Wisconsin. Urban clubs have had the hardest time luring members back, O’Connor said. Suburban gyms are doing better, while outstate clubs may have 80% or more members.

While Rodriguez says the industry desperately needs help, she also sees hope in some of the trends.

“I think our data is showing that members miss their clubs,” she said. “We’re always kind of delusionally optimistic. We’ll survive, but it really would be good to have some help.”

McMahon said he’s seen a change as more people get vaccinated.

“The older demographic … is starting to come back,” he said. “Because they’re getting the shots. They obviously feel comfortable in the gym.”

Filled schedules

Rodriguez said vaccinations are a major factor in getting people back into gyms, but so too are the routines that were disrupted by social distancing.

“It’s tough for parents to get back to the gym,” she said. “When schooling, day care and jobs get less remote — even if it’s a hybrid. Those are the three key things.”

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