SPECIALTY MARKETS: James on Women

Out of all the specialty clubs that focus on demographics, women-only facilities have been around the longest. Arguably, they are also the most successful.

There's a simple reason why women-only facilities have stood the test of time: Women don't always want to work out with men.

Sorry, fellas, but many ladies aren't interested in joining a "meat market" club, explains Sharon James, the general manager of Club La Femme, a women's club in Leawood, Kan. They don't want men hitting on them or staring while they work out.

At a club for women, members can concentrate on one thing: exercise. They don't even need to worry about how they look. According to James, when women go to a coed club, they feel pressured to dress their best and wear makeup because they are afraid that the male members will judge them. "That's just a woman's mind-set," she says.

Not that the y chromosome is the only thing driving women to their own clubs. James finds that the perception of a typical female club member also intimidates women. She notes that overweight women don't want to set foot into the average coed club because they expect to be surrounded by bodybuilders and petite blondes. Facilities like Club La Femme, on the other hand, create a welcoming environment for women of all sizes and ages.

Women-only clubs also deliver specialty programming and services that might not be found in a coed club. For example, Club La Femme offers classes designed for pregnant women and women who just had children. The club also includes a beauty salon, massage therapists and an ob/gyn practice on-site. Club La Femme is a one-stop shop for women.

And not just for young women. Baby boomers are looking to exercise to maintain their lifestyles, and they are turning to fitness facilities for help. This attitude has brought new business to Club La Femme. "We have members in their 60s and 70s-older, mature women who are concerned with their health," James says.

Indeed, women of all ages are exercising to stay healthy. It's not just about appearance. And as long as women are concerned about staying fit, our industry will have a place for clubs that cater exclusively to them.