The COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting shutdown have impacted businesses in every industry. The fitness industry may have been hit especially hard, but businesses in every category are needing to implement creative solutions to avoid dramatic losses. Our franchise, Workout Anytime, which consists of more than 170 locally operated and owned clubs nationwide, is no exception.
When cities and states started setting their own protocols for social distancing or shelter-in-place practices, we recognized that we needed to be prepared for our clubs to temporarily close their doors. Even in markets where local officials have not required citizens to shelter in place, the vast majority of gyms across the country are closed. Because of this, thousands of consumers are left without a place to exercise.
Fortunately for the fitness industry, shelter-in-place orders are likely going to create pent up demand for physical activity as consumers grow concerned about the health consequences of staying at home for weeks or months on end. As a franchisor, our responsibility is to start thinking about how we can creatively adapt our model to capture a piece of that spending.
The first step we took was to take the communities formed in our clubs and put them online. To help clients meet their fitness goals at home, Workout Anytime introduced a solution for both our members and gym owners, which includes a program of virtual workouts. Since our customers can’t come to our gyms, we’re doing everything we can to bring our gyms to them.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, we were already developing a mobile app that provides unique workout plans and hundreds of exercises our clients can do at home with no equipment. When the crisis hit, we sped up the development and delivery of that app and created additional home workout resources, including our new YouTube playlist featuring a Workout of the Day, in which one of our master trainers leads clients through a workout.
We also launched video-on-demand workouts in April, which allows members to choose from three types of workouts at home, including those that just require bodyweight, others that require home accessories such as water jugs and towels and still others designed to improve balance and flexibility.
Local franchisees also are using their club Facebook pages to do live feeds or workouts, publish vlogs and even arrange Zoom calls so that they can keep in touch with members and keep staff employed. Additionally, we created a designated section of our website to address frequently asked questions about the coronavirus.
These are low-cost solutions that strengthen relationships between franchisees, staff and members. This suite of virtual offerings gives our clients an abundance of resources to stay active and meet their fitness goals from home. Crucially, they also keep revenue coming in for our owners by giving members a reason to maintain their memberships even while they can’t visit our gyms in person.
Even if revenue streams slow, as they likely will for most businesses, it’s crucial to keep customers engaged throughout this crisis so that they will return when the storm dies. Businesses that figure out a way to step up and fill a need for their customers now will be the ones to survive. Luckily, the internet allows virtually every business to reach customers remotely and keep them satisfied.
In terms of the response to these offerings, we’ve been having conference calls and providing network-wide daily updates to make sure owners feel supported and confident. We’re all still a team, and we need to be on the same page. Although our entire team is eager to get back in the clubs, we’re banding together now to stay positive during otherwise uncertain times. Our collective spirit is that just because we can’t be in one place doesn’t mean we can’t be one team. And our team has responded tremendously to the challenge of managing an unrelenting set of challenges and communicating in real-time while working remotely.
Transitioning into the post-coronavirus landscape may put businesses outside of their comfort zones, but it also can open creative opportunities and revenue streams that will last long after this crisis ends.
Fitness franchisors like us owe it to our members and franchise partners to think creatively and extend our businesses in new directions. That’s our commitment as a franchisor. There are opportunities to succeed during this crisis, but they won’t simply present themselves—we’ve got to create them. Now is the time to sink-or-swim.