OVERLAND PARK, KS — The explosion of express clubs in the United States has become a double-edged sword for manufacturers who make products for locker rooms. On one hand, this trend has fueled the demand for cubbies and small lockers. On the flip side, however, it has snatched away potential sales from some manufacturers.

Space is at a premium in these clubs, so many owners of no-frills clubs swap lockers for cubbies, locker rooms for private changing areas, and spa-like bath products for standard shampoo and soap dispensers.

These smaller clubs also are often designed with an in-and-out mentality, which makes locker rooms unnecessary. Ninety percent of Snap Fitness members live within two miles of their club, so they often prefer to shower at home, says Peter Taunton, president and CEO of Snap Fitness.

“In our model, people aren't joining our clubs for the locker room facilities, and the shower amenities are not that big of a draw,” Taunton says. “We would rather put that square footage into more exercise space and have a very efficient facility with state-of-the-art equipment.”

Fitness 19 was one of the first club companies to take locker rooms and shower facilities out of its clubs, which measure from 7,000 to 10,000 square feet. By moving from full-scale locker rooms to traditional bathrooms with multiple stalls, the company lowered its price point for memberships, reduced overhead and committed more space to exercise equipment.

Curves also does not offer locker rooms. Instead, the clubs have bathrooms and changing rooms, which are often equipped with towels, deodorant and body spray.

Even though Snap Fitness does not have traditional locker rooms, some 15 percent of its clubs located in retail or office parks do offer 8-foot-by-10-foot personalized changing rooms and shower facilities. These rooms often include a bench, vanity, shower stocked with soap and shampoo, and a toilet, but no towels or hair dryers.

Anytime Fitness, another key-card club company, offers showers to its members, but none of the 1,300 4,000-square-foot clubs offer full-scale locker rooms. All of them have one men's and one women's changing room, each with a shower, sink and toilet.

Not all club companies, however, are downsizing their locker room facilities. Key Club Concepts, which owns four 7,000- to 10,000-square-foot key-card Vision Fitness clubs in New Hampshire and Maine, invests in full locker room and shower facilities in all of its clubs. When the company begins to license its clubs this year, it will require the licensees to dedicate at least 800 square feet to a locker room.

Although putting in showers and lockers can be expensive, these amenities are a valuable long-term investment, says Craig Annis, president and owner of the clubs, which he has run under the 24-hour key-card format for the last 17 years.

“Just because your operating format is different doesn't mean you have to cut out the basics,” Annis says, “and in my mind, lockers and showers are one of the basics.”