Tips for Fitness Studios and Gyms Impacted by Coronavirus
During the past few months of sheltering in place, the average American’s health habits have understandably declined. They’ve had their physical activity mostly limited to what they could do at home. So, as stay-at-home restrictions begin to relax across the country, many Americans are ready and excited to hit the gym.
Although gyms and fitness studios aren’t yet allowed to open, they soon will be. For this to safely happen, gym owners must demonstrate to local authorities, employees, and customers that they’re taking precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.
But what does that entail? What steps must you take?
Prepare to Open
In a post COVID-19 world, businesses must change how they operate to better protect employees and customers from the virus. For gyms and fitness studios, many of the common safety restrictions will be difficult to comply with. So, until you receive guidance from your local authorities, start to consider making the following changes:
- Rethink the floor plan – In all likelihood, your machinery isn’t spaced out more than six feet apart, which is required by the CDC’s social distancing stipulations. If possible, stagger machinery to create more space.
- Sanitize equipment – One of the primary health issues with gyms is that machinery, weights, and mats must be shared between gym users. To improve cleanliness, staff should circulate the gym frequently for routine cleaning. In addition, encourage gym members to clean equipment before and after use.
- Include hand sanitizers and wipes – Install hand sanitizers and wipe stations throughout the gym so that staff and employees can maintain their hygiene.
- Limit gym capacity – Although restrictions haven’t yet been outlined, judging by other businesses, you’ll likely need to limit the number of members allowed to workout at any given time, at least in the beginning. Per the legal firm Ward and Smith, “Retailers are now limited to the greater of (i) twenty percent (20%) of the stated fire capacity or (ii) five customers for every one-thousand square feet of the retailer's total square footage, which includes non-customer-facing areas.” Gyms and fitness studios are likely to follow suit.
- Create online workout reservations – Because there are likely more people that will want to workout than you can safely manage, create an online reservation system that allows members to select a workout slot.
- Protect your staff – Staff needs to know that you’re worried about their continued health and safety. You can demonstrate your concern by creating temporary policies such as:
- Required mask and glove wearing
- Hygiene requirements
- Encouraging employees who feel sick to stay home
In addition, you’ll want to add safety features to the gym such as plexiglass shields to the check-in desk.
Continue to Build Your Online Presence
Because gyms are still closed for the foreseeable future, your primary focus should be on continuing to build your online presence. This allows you to drive revenue as you prepare to reopen your gym or studio.
To succeed online, it’s essential to create a web presence just as welcoming as your physical storefront. If you don’t already have a website, now is the time to create one (if you do have a site, consider using this time to revamp it). Once that’s done, there are three potential revenue streams you should be embracing if you’re not already:
Until things reopen, you should continue to teach classes online. Some gyms have seen a 200% increase in subscriptions since beginning virtual classes. So, even if you don’t regularly teach classes, your gym’s personal trainers could easily lead 30- to 60-minute at-home workout routines. This provides a great revenue stream, one that can still be continued even after life has returned to normal.
For this, consider the following platforms:
- Zoom – Makes it easy to host live classes. If you’re focused on form, invest in a large monitor so that you can give your students cues and adjustments as they work out. Password-protect your classes to make sure only registered, paying students attend.
- Vimeo – Allows you to upload videos (as opposed to hosting live workouts). Allow clients to purchase workout videos for future reference and use. Consider creating a package of videos that includes a week of workouts. As time in quarantine progresses, add-on new, advanced options.
- YouTube – Building your YouTube channel should be something you focus on regardless of COVID-19. It’s a great way to provide current and potential gym members with free advice, education, and training.
Private Sessions and Coaching
Similarly, your clients may want a virtual way to work one-on-one with a personal trainer, especially once social distancing policies relax. Private sessions tend to bring in more money than an online class. So, consider the following options:
- Hold private sessions on Zoom or FaceTime so that you can give clients tailor-made plans and real-time feedback.
- Offer coaching sessions privately (or in small groups). These could focus on fitness, nutrition, mindfulness, and more.
Make Money with Merchandise
At-home gym equipment is still in high demand. If you have a store, consider selling your inventory online.
Trying to avoid a trip to the post office?
If you already have relationships with brands and retailers, encourage your existing customers to use your affiliate links when they make a purchase online. That way, you’ll see a portion of the sale.
Connect with Your Local Community on Nextdoor
To adapt to the crisis and changing circumstances, you’ll need to build a buzz about both your present and future service offerings. To provide current and would-be members the most value, it’s vital that you check in with your local community. This lets you see how you can better serve its needs.
Nextdoor is your neighborhood hub and the best place to connect with your community online. According to internal surveys, 75% of Nextdoor members are willing to pay more for something from a local business than from a larger competitor, so these users may be especially helpful as you continue to compete with larger fitness studios.
It’s easy—and free—to get started with Nextdoor. To set up your Business Page:
- Enter your business information, including your mission statement, your online services, and a link to your website.
- Run promotions for your gym or studio directly on Nextdoor.
- Once you have one recommendation, you’ll show up in neighborhood search results. Waiting for your first review? Ask your existing customers if they use Nextdoor.
- Post updates about your business changes to your neighbors. Engage with local conversations to stay atop of what’s going on in your neighborhood. Find opportunities to connect with potential customers, and with other small business owners.
As you begin to use Nextdoor, your local online network will continue to grow. Make adjustments to your online store and services with your community’s needs in mind, and keep them informed of any changes to your schedule and future reopening plans.
Use Digital Marketing
As a small local business, it’s important to engage with your local community. At the same time, you currently have the opportunity to connect with people far beyond your neighborhood. Growing your brand and customer base online is great for your long-term business model.
Possible digital marketing channels include:
- ClassPass – If your studio tries to keep in-person classes small, you may not use ClassPass to pack the room. However, with a Zoom class, you may be able to fit in dozens more students than your physical space can accommodate. Add your classes to ClassPass—a hub that connects people with studios—to start reaching potential customers near and far.
- Newsletter – If you don’t already have a gym newsletter, now is a great time to start one. Email marketing allows you to keep customers informed of your class schedule, planned changes, and reopening information. For instance:
- Share strategies for dealing with stress or staying active at home.
- Solidify your place as an expert in your field of fitness with quick tips, healthy recipes, and link roundups.
- Run promotions to encourage more sign-ups for your classes, workshops, and coaching programs.
Reopening Your Gym or Fitness Studio
Eventually, the time will come when state and federal guidelines allow you to once more reopen your business. Prepare for what’s to come, that way you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.
When you do reopen, remember the lessons you’ve learned through your new business endeavors. You may be able to continue offering a blend of online and in-person services to connect with your clients near and far. For now though, consider the ways you can prioritize the health and safety of your employees and members, and meet your customers where they are, which is online.
Do all this, and you’ll ensure that you reopen successfully.
Morning Consult. Cooped Up at Home, Millennials Most Likely Among All Adults to Turn to Food, Alcohol. https://morningconsult.com/2020/04/06/coronavirus-social-distancing-millennials-eating-drinking/
CDC. Social Distancing. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html
Ward and Smith. Governor Adds New COVID-19 Social Distancing Regulations for Retailers. https://www.wardandsmith.com/articles/governor-adds-new-covid-19-social-distancing-regulations-for-retailers
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