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How Fitness Franchises Are Coping With COVID-19

Fitness franchise brands have initiated creative pivots to stay afloat during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

By Renee Furla1851 Contributor
8:08AM 05/15/20

Since fitness brands have been deemed non-essential in most states, franchisors in the segment have had to quickly implement new business models to stay connected to their members and keep their franchise locations running. Most fitness brands have turned to technology as a way to pivot their current business operations and maintain human connection through the unique personalization characteristics that personal trainers and gym instructors once had with their members pre-COVID-19. 

As a mobile personal training business, the GYMGUYZ franchise has had to completely reinvent its operational model as personal trainers are no longer able to enter their client’s homes or local gyms during stay-at-home orders in most states. 

Virtual training may just be the next best thing to in-person training, and technology has become a common trend amongst most fitness brands during this crisis. For example, multi-unit GYMGUYZ franchisee Aaron Behrens and his team have implemented virtual training as a way to provide their services when it’s most convenient for their clients, using common video conferencing tools such as Facetime, Skype and Zoom.

Providing fitness training virtually has proven beneficial not only for GYMGUYZ franchisees, but also for their clients, who have been able to maintain their fitness routines and stay physically active while stuck at home.

“At first, some clients just wanted to wait until they could resume normal training, but as stay-at-home orders are becoming long term, more people are joining virtual training,” said Behrens.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced GYMGUYZ to explore other opportunities to fit in with the new normal for clients and personal trainers. Since most personal trainers are used to going to a set location with specialized equipment most clients would not normally be equipped with, Behrens says GYMGUYZ has had to think outside of the box in order to provide the same level of personalized training workouts. 

“I’ve been involved in this business for 20 years, and when there is a crisis, the only thing to do is remain calm. It’s to the benefit of the organization, employees and clients,” said Behrens. “My team had to start thinking outside the box and come up with items that our clients would have in their household that could be used in place of the normal equipment.”

Mayweather Boxing + Fitness has taken this time to improve their current business operations, take advantage of their boosting franchise sales and help lead prospects and new franchisees on a path to success.

In accordance with guidelines from the CDC and other authorities, Mayweather Boxing + Fitness Studios are temporarily closed, but the brand is leveraging its robust suite of technologies to host live streaming and digital programming that help reach members even while they are unable to visit the brand’s studios in person. In addition to virtual workouts and interactive social media competitions, franchisees at various locations have utilized their localized online platforms to host their own live-streamed workouts, in which members can be led by the familiar faces of their Mayweather instructors.

“For those who want further individualized attention, we offer virtual one-on-one training accountability programs so members can continue working with their instructors in a personalized setting,” said James Williams, CEO of Mayweather Boxing + Fitness. “Selfie challenges, push-up challenges and other virtual contests allow members to stay physically active and connected with their Mayweather Boxing + Fitness social system. Floyd [Mayweather] has even been joining in with some of our challenges.”

According to Williams, the strength, popularity and adaptability of the Mayweather Boxing + Fitness brand have been exemplified throughout this strange set of circumstances. “Almost all of our franchisees who are in the pre-opening stages understand that they are in an advantageous place in the franchise lifecycle and are looking to quickly move and capitalize on what’s happening in the market,” said Williams. “We are seeing an even stronger demand for franchise sales right now, with investors identifying these virtual opportunities and seeking to get in at the right time. As such, we are spending this time moving our franchisees through the onboarding process, so that when retail opens up again, we’ll have a strong number of studios coming online to take advantage of the new market conditions.”

Although most of the brand’s studios are closed, membership sales are actually increasing, something Williams attributes to his team’s ability to pivot quickly. 

“Our temporarily closed studios are actually selling more memberships now than when they were open,” he said. “They are actively calling prospects who are sitting at home or scrolling through social media and really connecting with them on a personal level about what’s happening in the world. Our franchisees are able to show prospective customers why health and fitness is so important, and get them excited to be members when the studio re-opens.”

Williams and the Mayweather team are already ahead of the game when it comes to thinking about the future and what their physical studios will look like on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we prepare for when we are able to open our doors again, we are developing contingency plans around our programming and staffing model to create temporary limits on the number of people allowed in social gatherings,” said Williams. “This will allow us to hit the ground running and cater to the inevitable big surge in demand as people are raring to get back into the gym. These plans include a modified class flow, restructured and efficient staffing models and a more accessible pricing option for people who will be reluctant to spend a large sum of money at one time. While some of these measures being taken will be temporary, we think some of the procedures and plans will be so successful that we will continue using them in the long term. Overall, we see real opportunity and an exciting future coming out of this for both our open studios and our franchisees moving through the pipeline.”

No one knows what the future of fitness franchises will look like, but if the past few weeks offer any indication, GYMGUYZ and Mayweather Boxing + Fitness will find a way to adapt to it.