Typical Seasonal Declines While Stabilization Continues
December 2020 was unlike any other December in history. While most people weren’t traveling or attending parties, many gyms are still shuttered or operating with limited capacity, outdoors, or with social distancing and mask requirements.
After spending almost a year talking with gym owners about how they are managing under difficult and constantly changing restrictions, two common themes emerged among those gym owners who are maintaining their membership or — in some cases — even adding members: communication and flexibility.
Staying in touch with members through emails, texts, social media, and blog posts helps keep your community connected even when they’re not together in person. You can take this a step further by figuring out which of your members haven’t checked in recently and reaching out to them to find out how you can help, either with some at-home workouts or just to talk and find out how they’ve been.
One gym owner we interviewed texts motivational messages every Monday to all his members and sends an at-home workout every Friday to his leads. Keeping these lines of communication open will pay off when everything opens up and people feel ready to return to in-person workouts. They’ll remember you as a source of inspiration and information when deciding to retain their membership or join as a new member.
We have seen and heard countless stories from owners about how much has changed simply in the way that doors are opened each day. You have shared experiences about everything from new cleaning procedures to creating space more space around equipment to modified class sizes and reservation systems. Your flexibility and grit have been apparent in how you have kept your communities moving through outdoor classes, remote offerings, and unique social challenges or events. This year has been an incredible year of growth – perhaps not in revenue or new members, but in creativity and ingenuity. These are changes that will not go away over the coming months but will continue forward as you step into a space of thriving through the new operational norms.
Based on US customer data in Zen Planner, December revenue is at 76% of 2019 numbers, a slight drop from last month. When diving into this metric, it shows a typical holiday season payments volume decline. Check-ins increased slightly in December to 75% of 2019 levels, this is a 4% increase from what was reported in November and illustrates how much members prioritize their wellness and fitness as part of their daily lives. Active members are down 1% from last month and are at 75% of 2019’s November totals – this is also a normal November to December seasonal decrease.
Overall these trends represent a leveling off – while the majority of businesses have not fully elevated to 2019 “normal” performance metrics, we are not seeing dramatic swings as we did at the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter. Even while working through continued regional capacity restrictions and waves of closures, wrapping up 2020 with trends that are typical of a “normal” year and overall stabilization of check-ins and active memberships provide hope as we enter into 2021.
As vaccine distribution starts to increase the next few months will likely be the quiet before the storm. Of course it’s impossible to make any real predictions, but there’s a very good chance the spring will see a rush of people returning to in-person workouts. Think about how you want to respond to this shift. Maybe now is the time to refresh your website and start advertising, building brand awareness so you’re top of mind when people are ready to return. Perhaps you want to implement some business systems so you can easily stay on top of how much money is coming in, your 30-day rolling average, and your membership numbers. If you have the budget, you also might want to think about improvements to your physical space.
The late spring could be similar to what we typically see in January, with people eager to start healthy habits after so much time at home. Use these next few months to make sure you’re ready for a potential positive shift in the industry.
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Hilary Achauer is a health and wellness writer with over 10 years of experience helping gym owners and small businesses tell their stories through articles and marketing content. Prior to joining UpLaunch, Zen Planner, and SugarWOD, Hilary spent seven years writing for the CrossFit Journal and covering the CrossFit Games. She’s published articles in the Washington Post, The Week, Eating Well, Greatist, and Men’s Health.