Updating Equipment on a Budget

With the recent technological advances in the manufacturing and design of new products, it has become increasingly important to bring new equipment into clubs. There are many steps one must take in order to accomplish this goal effectively.

A well-thought-out plan is crucial to success in this project. A cash-flow analysis of your business is necessary to develop an appropriate budget for equipment purchases. This long-term budget will specify money to be spent for equipment purchases.

The next step is to research the equipment needs of your club. This can be accomplished in several ways:

* develop diverse member focus groups to give feedback on equipment needs

* create an in-club suggestion box

* implement an equipment-usage report to track your most and least popular equipment

* attend industry trade shows

* visit other facilities

* read trade journals and magazines

* meet with equipment sales reps (do not underestimate the value of meeting with them because they can supply you with information on industry trends)

Your research should also include an analysis of the reputation of the equipment manufacturers (how long have they been in business, do they provide technical support, do they offer a warranty, etc.). Talk to other club owners and get their feedback on the equipment you are interested in purchasing.

Once the research is completed, you will need to prioritize your equipment list based on equipment that needs to be updated or replaced, and new equipment additions. Your list of replacements and additions should be divided into strength and cardiovascular machines. This list should include all costs, including freight, sales tax, installation, delivery and any costs incurred for changing the frame or padding color (if applicable).

Work with your equipment reps. They want your business and will offer discounts on multiple purchases or give you a special rate if you commit to buying a certain number of machines over a specified time period. Don't forget to inquire about trading in your old equipment. You may also decide to sell your old equipment privately or donate it to local schools. Either way, it should be included in your budget.

Buying or Leasing
The decision to buy or lease can be complicated. Many clubs lease their cardiovascular equipment, so they can offer their members the excitement of new equipment every few years. Of course, you will pay for this excitement in the long run. Leasing strength equipment seems to make less economic sense, as the life expectancy of this equipment should extend well past the normal three-year lease contract.

It is important to analyze the short- and long-term needs of your business. Leasing will allow you to get more new equipment for less money today, and you must be careful not to force yourself into unnecessary purchases. The basic design of strength equipment, bikes and treadmills has not changed drastically in the recent past. If you have adequate maintenance, you can keep your equipment functional for a long time, which would tend to benefit the club that purchases equipment.

--Felicia Gaglio is the fitness director of Club Fit in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. She was also a quarter finalist for the IHRSA/Cybex Fitness Director of the Year Award in 1998, 1997 and 1996. Gaglio can be reached at (914) 762-3444.