BOSTON -- January 2009 might not have been as difficult for club operators as some thought, if results from an online survey by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) are correct. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed said that total revenue in January 2009 was much better, better or equal to January 2008. Sixty-seven percent said that total memberships were much better, better or equal this January compared to last while 65 percent said that new membership sales were much better, better or equal to January 2008.

IHRSA surveyed its member clubs in February and received 269 responses, mostly from one-club operators with 1,000 to 5,000 memberships. IHRSA did not provide individual numbers for each category, instead placing into one category the responses to “much better, better or equal” and putting responses to “worse or much worse” into a second category.

Many of the respondents said that they had made changes to their business operations due to the current economic hardships. Some of these changes include an increased focus on customer service, profit centers (such as non-dues programs), and marketing and advertising.

In addition, more clubs are offering discounts on enrollment fees, shorter-term memberships, and services offered to nonmembers. Club owners are also paying close attention to staffing schedules and expenses while also giving careful consideration to postponing equipment purchases. However, the majority of clubs reported that they are maintaining their pre-planned capital expenditures.

Fifty-one percent of respondents said that the changes they’ve made were minor; 17 percent said they were drastic. Another 18 percent said they had not made changes yet but they would.

New non-dues-related sales were much better, better or equal to January 2008 for 74 percent of the respondents, while non-dues revenue overall was much better, better or equal to January 2008 for 72 percent of respondents.

“We are very pleased to hear from a sample of IHRSA clubs that they are maintaining or improving performance during this tough economic time,” Katie Rollauer, IHRSA’s senior manager of research, said in a release from IHRSA.