BOSTON — Even though some indicators point to a possible improvement in the economy, recent surveys in the health club industry indicate that improvement may come slowly.

The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association's (IHRSA) Monthly Trends Survey for September 2009 indicated that of the 54 U.S. health club companies surveyed, 53 percent had lower revenue from membership dues and fees in September 2009 than in September 2008. Thirty percent said that membership dues/fees revenue was up, and 17 percent reported it was the same for the month.

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 club operators said non-dues revenue was down, 23 percent said it was up and 19 percent said it was the same.

The lower revenue may be one reason that IHRSA's “2009 Health Club Equipment Benchmarking Report” found that 45 percent of the 150 IHRSA club operators in that survey plan to order less new equipment in the next 12 months than they did in the past 12 months. Thirty-six percent plan to order the same amount, meaning 19 percent plan to order more. The 150 operators represent 400 facilities.

That's not good news for equipment manufacturers, considering the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) recently released a report, “The State of the Industry 2009,” which showed that commercial exercise equipment sales declined in 2008 for the first time in 20 years. In 2008, sales in this area totaled $1.04 billion compared to $1.15 billion in 2007. For 2009, SGMA is predicting a further decline to $934 million.