BOSTON -- Fifty-three percent of health club operators showed membership dues/fees revenue was down in September compared to September last year, according to a survey by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). Thirty percent showed that membership dues/fees revenue was up, and 17 percent reported it was the same for the month.

The numbers were from IHRSA's Monthly Trends Survey of 54 participating club operators.

Year-to-date (ending Sept. 30, 2009), the numbers were a bit better, with 49 percent of the clubs reporting decreased membership dues/fees revenue over year-to-date last year, 34 percent reporting increases and 17 percent reporting steady.

Non-dues revenue and membership accounts were down for the majority of surveyed clubs in September 2009 compared to September 2008. Fifty-eight percent of the clubs said non-dues revenue was down, 23 percent said it was up and 19 percent said it was the same. Fifty-one percent of clubs showed that membership accounts were down while 28 percent showed they were up, and 21 percent reported they were the same compared to September 2008.

Non-dues revenue year-to-date was down for 55 percent of participating clubs, up for 28 percent and the same for 17 percent. IHRSA did not provide numbers for membership accounts year-to-date.

So far, the numbers are different from what club operators expected for the fall. IHRSA’s August survey showed that 46 percent of the 56 participating clubs in that month’s survey anticipated increased revenue in the fall 2009 over fall 2008. Thirty-two percent expected steady revenue, and 21 percent expected decreased revenue compared to fall 2008.

However, Melissa Rodriguez, IHRSA’s manager of research, said that September proved to be a good start for clubs.

“While membership dues may have dwindled for some clubs in August, strong businesses have proved to be resilient in September with increased membership fees revenue and favorable cost management,” Rodriguez said in a release from IHRSA.

The participating IHRSA clubs reported steady staffing levels while a majority plan to maintain and enhance current fitness programs and club facilities. Fifty-three percent of respondents indicated a similar number of employees in September 2009 in comparison with September 2008, with 18 percent reporting increased staffing levels. Eighty-eight percent plan to maintain or increase their number of employees over the next three months.

Along with planning for consistent to increased staffing levels, 64 percent of the surveyed club operators plan to maintain their current level of special fitness programs, and 36 percent plan to add to them. Nearly the entire sample (98 percent) reported planning to maintain (68 percent) or add (30 percent) to their current level of group exercise classes. Sixty-four percent of responding clubs indicated plans to make capital expenditures for equipment, expansion or remodeling over the next three months.