Our Readers Respond
GROUP HELP

Dear Editor:
I currently run 147 group exercise classes per week and have 42 instructors who work for me. My prime-time classes are running at about 92 percent capacity with an overall 64 percent capacity. Not bad for a club that has been open four months. I would love the opportunity to talk to you about what works and what doesn't at our facility.

I read [Associate Editor Lynnette Shelley's] article about making group fitness profitable [Shake Your Money Maker, May, page 33] and enjoyed it very much. I would like to talk with others who run as many classes as I and find out how they make members happy. I can be reached at (908) 782-4009, ext. 259.

Vicki Stodart
Group Exercise Director
HealthQuest of Hunterdon

The Editor responds:
Ms. Stodart welcomes discussions with readers who would like to talk about the management of group exercise. We have printed her phone number with her permission. Please feel free to give her a call.


50 MILLION MEMBERS

[Editor's note: The following letters are in reference to 50 Million Served (July, page 41), an article examining the IHRSA/SGMA initiative to grow the U.S. fitness industry to 50 million members by the year 2010.]

Dear Editor:
Fifty million would be very realistic if IHRSA included MFA [Medical Fitness Association] and other similiar organizations. The anti-non-profit attitude hurts the industry if you see the industry as something other than the private-owner-type organization it protrays itself to be. The article starts out talking about the health and industry business and quickly goes to IHRSA as representing that industry when it only serves part of that industry.

John H. Bates
Director
Blount Memorial Wellness Center,
Blount Memorial Hospital

The Editor responds:
We certainly didn't mean to portray IHRSA as the fitness industry's only representative. However, IHRSA did launch the “50 million member” initiative with the Fitness Products Council of the Sporting Goods Manufacturer Association (SGMA), so it seemed only fitting to reference IHRSA throughout the feature.

It should be noted that 50 Million Members by 2010, a book on the subject published by IHRSA/SGMA, acknowledges the role of not-for-profits in the 50 million initiative: “The health club industry is larger than IHRSA and larger than the Fitness Products Council of SGMA. Both of these organizations are only parts of a fast-growing, multi-faceted industry. The number 50 million, around which this campaign is launched, refers not only to commercial club membership, but to membership in all types of fitness venues. These include membership in corporate fitness centers, YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), college and university facilities, and public recreation centers, etc.”

The book goes on to call for membership growth in all industry segments. Still, the book also clearly states IHRSA's intention to grow market share for the for-profit section. According to the book, tax-exempt facilities accounted for 40 percent of the industry's market share in 1987. By 1997, that number had dropped to 34 percent, while tax-paying facilities jumped to 66 percent. IHRSA clearly wants to see that trend continue — even accelerate.

“Over the next 10 years,” the book states, “between 2000 and 2010, IHRSA's objective is to increase the market share of its segment from 66% to 80%.”

With that in mind, Mr. Bates raises a valid point. Can this industry actually reach 50 million members if the commercial sector attempts to outpace not-for-profit fitness providers? Let us know what you think.

Dear Editor:
Can the health club industry grow to 50-plus million members by 2010? Absolutely.

There are three key factors that must be taken into consideration by all clubs in the industry in order to reach this goal: customer service; innovative products and programs; and modern technology.

By keeping the focus on the customer, the industry will succeed in minimizing member attrition. It is my belief that word-of-mouth publicity is a key form of marketing your facility to new customers. Focusing your attention toward your customer's needs will, no doubt, spread the word about your product.

You must complement customer service with innovative products. Under-standing your target customer and realizing the magnitude of the baby boomer and echo boomer populations, industry insiders must offer new programs to target these demographics.

Finally, nothing can be accomplished without the supporting technological infrastructure. As we all know, technology is constantly changing, and those who cannot support the growth in technology with new funding will not be able to sustain the growth of the industry.

Adam Shane
Senior Business Analyst
Town Sports International Inc.


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