I’ve been a member of my gym for five years, go three times a week (honestly) and have a personal trainer – I’m a good customer, paying top whack every month. And I’m starting to feel like a mug. As the Christmas Party/ New Year’s resolution season approaches all gyms, mine included, are bending over backwards to think up membership offers to tempt the lardy of arse over the threshold. As a new member I could join my gym for half of what I’m currently paying.
At no point during the last five years has my gym expended a moment’s thought on how to keep me handing over my £60 every month. There are no discounts, cut price offers, special access to trainers. No reasons to make me feel that they value my custom and want to hang on to it. The occasional promotion offering a bit off my membership if I can entice a friend to join just makes me feel like an unpaid member of their sales force on work experience.
The basic business model seems to be based on a really fast churn of members as people get fired up to get fit, start exercising, lose enthusiasm and leave . Everything is focused on getting new recruits wobbling through the doors. It seems to be much less important to hold on to members once they’ve been hooked – which seems odd, given the relative difficulty of attracting new members compared with the advantages of retaining the ones you’ve got. It’s not just LA Fitness that’s missing a trick. As far as I can see there are no loyalty schemes currently being offered by any of the big gym chains to try to keep their members sweet. Fitness First seem to have tried something a while ago which didn’t last – at least if it did I can’t find a reference to it. They do have a loyalty scheme aimed at their personal trainers, but nothing for us, the sweaty and slightly breathless customers who keep them in business.
My own inertia shows why they don’t bother – they don’t need to. Why cut into the profit to be earned from a customer who shows no sign of going elsewhere? But times are getting harder and people don’t have money to chuck around unthinkingly anymore. If they can’t be loyal to me, I won’t be loyal to them either. If they won’t do me a deal on membership then I’ll take my abs and glutes somewhere cheaper, which would be a shame because I really like the gym.