With a visible increase over the last year, many of the "big box" chain gyms have been starting to add small group personal training to their services. David Lloyd is the most recent to have announced this, with their "Delta" small group training program. Others like Bannatyne, F45, and Virgin have made similar inroads.
The drive for chain gyms to enhance their service offering with boutique-style training is obvious. It continues to be a rapidly growing sector of the fitness market and the public are wanting an ever-more personalised service - especially after 2+ years of COVID disruptions.
Conversely, over the other side of the fence, I see more-and-more small group training gyms trying add more of an 'open gym' format to their own offerings. Often, this is being done at the recommendation of their 'business guru'.
Seemingly, both types of facilities are trying to move into each others spaces. The result will be a meeting in the middle where small independent facilities are trying to battle-it-out with large and extremely wealthy chains.
To me it just doesn't make sense, and I think some of these former 'pure' small group facilities are making a terrible mistake.
The profit-per-head for a boutique, personal training client is much higher than that for an open gym attendee. To make money out of an open gym, you need volume. It is a very different game.
It is important that small group gyms value their equipment and space. Why are you making your equipment available for general use with such little benefit to your business?
I often hear the argument of "well, it's quiet at that time". Ok, so who is it that is coming in to use the equipment then? With a really premium small group facility operating no more than four to a group, it shouldn't be hard to operate at capacity almost all of the day.
Building on this further are the small group gyms that permit their coaches to conduct private one-on-one sessions in their facilities during the so-called 'quiet times'. Why is your coach earning more than you, when clearly there is a demand for the service? It seems almost nonsensical.
A small group training gym is never going to manage to compete on equipment or facility. The big chains have much more money, and can create amazing looking spaces.
It is important to remember what it is that your members seek from you, and what you are so good at providing.
That is a high quality, personalised service where you show genuine care for your clients.
The impression I get is that, right now, many of the chains think that the top-and-bottom of "small group" is just fewer clients in a session. However, as we all know, it goes much further.
You have the upper hand. Deliver small group personal training to a high standard, and you can command premium membership fees and establish an incredibly loyal customer base. Start straying into territory where you will struggle to compete, and life is likely to get a bit more tough.
Time will tell. I may be wrong. I just hope that the gym owners being encouraged down this route know what they are doing, and have established a viable business model for succeeding.
Take heed... whilst it may often look it, the grass often isn't greener on the other side.