Developing a Ladies-Only Pro Shop

The health club industry invests both money and energy to attract prospective members and secure appointments. The pro shop projects an attractive image to prospective members and influences their comfort zone. This ambience also affects current members as well.

The pro shop at Lady of America is both a profit center and an advertising medium. The first questions from new members in the more than 200 Lady of America locations worldwide are "What should I wear?" and "How can I lose weight?" That's why we profit from the sale of apparel and nutritional supplements. And when you sell sportswear apparel or nutritional products with your logo attached, you sell mini-billboards influencing your community.

The most important step in starting a pro shop is to begin with good partners to produce the items you sell. Lady of American works with one manufacturer that makes its sportswear apparel. The manufacturer has also assisted Lady of America in formulating its own pro-shop strategies.

There are three simple steps that lead to the profitable sales of sportswear apparel:

1) The apparel must be attractively displayed with proper equipment. It should be mobile and allow the customer to see and touch the apparel. The proper display can increase sales as much as 40 percent.

2) The apparel must be comfortable. This can range from tight-fitting to lose and airy; however, the item should provide freedom of movement. The customer desires a fashionable garment, but the fabrics and body style should be basic. The primary fabric should be 100 percent cotton, as it breathes, and in the club, cotton is more comfortable most of the time. Some garments do well with other fabric blends. The primary colors are white, black and navy.

3) The customer wants to be serviced. Don't rely on the display to sell itself. Service the customer the same as you would when selling a membership.

In addition to apparel, we also have our own private label nutritional products. When members view a supplement display, they are looking for very specific solutions to physical conditions or to achieve a desirable image. Female members tend to be more concerned with weight loss and fitness than their male counterparts, who concentrate more on muscle building, although both are concerned with appearance.

A recent consumer report revealed that the most significant reasons for using supplements are increased energy, improved fitness, disease prevention and treatment of specific problems (like excessive body fat). The most popular types of supplements for women are weight-loss products, such as meal replacements and thermogenic fat burners; vitamins; energy boosters; anti-carcinogenics; and skin-care products.

Nutritional displays should be as near eye level as possible and contain educational literature. Use point-of-sale information usually provided by the manufacturer or vendor.

The staff should be informed on the current supplement trends. Employees should also be prepared to sell the products to their members. This requires educating the members on how to use supplements correctly and what supplements can do for their health needs.

- Roger Wittenberns is president/CEO of Lady of America. He is well known for his expertise in the health and fitness franchise industry.


Health Drinks for Bally

Century Industries Inc. in Linwood, N.J., recently entered into a joint venture agreement with Aloe Commodities International to develop a full line of health drinks for Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. The line will consist of 12 different health drinks to be marketed throughout the 370 Bally Total Fitness Centers nationwide in the United States.

These ready-to-drink products include beverages infused with aloe vera and other nutritional supplements. The drinks will also be marketed through retail stores.

The Bally Fitness Center drinks will be designed, produced and distributed through the Nutritional Division. Gross revenues from this single mass marketing are projected to reach $20,000 to $25,000 in the next 12 months.

In a release, Carl Valore, CEO of Century Industries, stated, "This joint venture with Aloe Commodities for the Bally Fitness Centers will give us a huge retail showcase for Sports Nutrition and Weight Management health drinks in a nationwide environment. This showcase will help fire the health-conscious consumer's imagination and their desire to partipate in the self-care nutrition market."


What to Sell

Want to know what a lot of clubs are selling in their pro shops? According to Club Industry Magazine's 1999 Survey of Buying Power, here is what club operators said they are stocking:

Bottled Water: 65%
Soft/Sports Drinks: 65%
Health Foods/Snacks: 55%
Supplements/Vitamins: 38%
Apparel with Logo: 70%
Other Apparel: 28%
Sports Shoes: 16%
Gym Bags: 27%
Exercise/Fitness Equipment: 22%
Books/Video: 19%
Other: 4%