Rick Caro Still Keeping Close Tabs on the Industry

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Here's all you need to know about Rick Caro's "The Real Insights on Why People Join Health Clubs and Why They Stay" presentation Thursday morning at CI 2010: I took 18 pages of notes.

Granted, I write big, I skip a few lines here and there, and my notebook is 6 inches by 9 inches. But facts are facts. And Caro shared a lot of facts.

Even after all these years in the industry, Caro, who was off to New York after CI 2010 to celebrate his 65th birthday in style (Oct. 12—today—is the actual day!), is still learning and still yearning to teach others. He asked for a show of hands of how many people in the packed room were at Club Industry for the first time. About half the room raised their hands.

With that in mind, Caro brought some new data to the table in the form of several industry surveys. (When Caro mentioned the word "club," it represented all forms of fitness facilities.) He cited the recent IHRSA Consumer Fitness Trends survey taken during the middle of the recession last year, which stated that 69 percent of Americans are non-club members, 19 percent are former members and 12 percent are current members. (That 12 percent is below the 14 to 15 percent label we usually see for current club members.) In referencing that there are 1 1/2 times more former members than current members, Caro said, "This is, in my view, embarrassing."

The survey yielded a new category of members. We know about Generation Y (16-29 years old), Generation X (30-41 years old) and the Baby Boomers (42-60 years old). But a new category, the Eisenhower Generation, represents those who are 61 and older. In the Eisenhower Generation, which has 48 million people, 73 percent are non-members. Their goals are to feel better and to lose weight. Beginner programs, personal measurement outcome data and a social component are key offerings and suggestions for this group.

Caro, a columnist for Club Industry and president of the Management Vision consulting firm, says the category that presents the greatest opportunity for the industry is the Baby Boomer category. Of the 76.7 million Baby Boomers, only 10 percent are club members, the smallest percentage in any of the four categories. Some of the suggestions and offerings for the Eisenhower Generation apply here, too, with an added suggestion of a "club within a club," which Caro says the industry has talked about "for a hundred years."

Student and under-30 memberships should be helpful for Gen Yers, and one-stop shopping, such as Mommy and Me and single-parent activities, should be helpful for Gen Xers, who are most likely (16 percent) to belong to a club, Caro says.

In closing, Caro cited statistics from other surveys. One stat that astounded Caro was that 35 percent of those surveyed said bowling was their favorite non-health club activity. Bowling, ladies and gentlemen.

The economy—which Caro always has a pulse on—is still not healthy despite the recent declarations that the recession is over, he says. The key is unemployment levels. During the recession, we lost 7 million jobs, Caro says. That's a lot to overcome in a short amount of time.

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