02 Dec 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2020 issue 7

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Leisure Management - Reopening down under


Reopening down under

Gyms and studios across New Zealand and Australia have gradually been reopening their doors since mid-May. Steph Eaves talks to five operators to find out what their experiences have been, and what advice they have for those following in their footsteps

Steph Eaves, Health Club Management and Sports Management
Snap Fitness says it has achieved 90 per cent of pre-COVID attendances

Snap Fitness, Australia and New Zealand
Ty Menzies
Clubs: 220 in Australia, 56 in New Zealand
Reopened: New Zealand clubs: 14 May; Australia: Varied by state – from 15 May to 22 June

“Attendance levels are around 90 per cent of pre-COVID numbers, even with restrictions. We’ve had really positive feedback from our existing members about the measures in place, especially cleaning. Some new members have said our model feels ‘clean and safe’ in comparison to the larger box clubs.”

“The biggest challenge we face at the moment is not being able to operate 24/7 in some states, given this is one of our core offerings. Secondly, the varying restrictions in each Australian state.”

“When it came to the management of space, in some clubs we’re able to utilise outdoor spaces, or in our larger clubs, to break out into areas where we could get more people in-club for a workout.”

“It’s very much about providing a community for our members where they feel safe and are able to achieve great results. We’re also very focused on providing technology and digital offerings to our members.”

“Keep open communication with your internal team members. If you’re transparent about what’s going on, and have a solid plan in place, it provides clear direction and comfort. Also, ensure you work closely with your local government and fitness governing body to have all the right information first hand.”

"We’ve been able to maintain the majority of our workforce"

“We created a health and safety plan to support our network and explain measures clubs were taking. As guidelines were released, we’ve aligned them with our internal plan and made adjustments as required. Key focus areas were around club standards, team training, cleaning and managing capacity.”

“We’ve been able to maintain the majority of our workforce during the COVID shutdown and through the other side.”

Peak Fitness and Health, New Zealand
Neil Wagstaff
Clubs: 1
Reopened: 14 May

“We reopened with around 70 per cent of our members in the first week while restrictions were still in place. Everyone was positive, and excited to be back. One month in, we’re operating at around 80 per cent of previous revenue levels, and are confident this will continue to rise gradually over the coming months.”

“The biggest challenge for us has been mentally getting our head around re-opening our business while having to restrict the number of people who enter it!”

“We’re developing our other revenue streams within the club – programmes such as our Peak Epigenetics programme and our Running Hot Coaching.”

“To enable us to continue to offer group fitness, we measured out and marked 2m square areas on the floor, and set up each square with all the equipment necessary for any class. This meant members didn’t need to collect or return equipment – stopping the usual huddle effect at these points. We also removed all our spin bikes from our spin studio and positioned them in between each 2m square.

Members were required to fill up the room from the front to the back – to prevent walking through each other’s ‘bubbles’. We implemented a booking system for classes and reduced the maximum number from 25 to 12.”

"We’re developing our other revenue streams within the club – programmes, such as our Peak Epigenetics programme and our Running Hot Coaching"

“We asked members to RSVP to newsletters with their updated contact details, for contact tracing purposes. Doing this in advance prevented bottlenecks at reception when people returned. We also sent a survey out to members to gauge what percentage we could expect to return immediately.”

“In terms of products to buy, first off, get a ULV fogging machine. Don’t even bother trying to re-open without one. This can be used to quickly and efficiently disinfect and sanitise everything.”

“One hundred per cent of our staff is working again. We have seven part time employees, plus 13 subcontractors.”

“Communication is key. Keep smiling. Show up for your team and your members. Be there to welcome every member that comes back through your doors. Take everything else off your schedule – just be around to chat to members and staff. Thank them for their loyalty and support.”

Reopening the business with restrictions on numbers has been a challenge
Grassroots Yoga & Health, New Zealand
Veronica King
Veronica King: people are desperate for connection and eager to be back
Clubs: 1
Reopened: 18 May

“Our community is so excited to be back and we’ve had a really great return rate. At 12 people per class we’ve had a full house in almost every class. I think people are desperate for connection.”

“Reopening with distancing has been the most difficult. Fortunately overheads were reduced while we were closed, but once we reopened they went back to normal even though our capacity had reduced by half.”

“Our biggest liability at the time of closing was the thousands of dollars we’d collected in pre-paid passes, which are still being honoured. So we decided not to offer any more passes for three months.

The model has shifted to a much more manageable monthly membership, which is easier to pause and part-refund if needed.”

“We got permission from our landlord for free use of a bigger space on the premises to accommodate more than 12 people in our peak classes, which was brilliant. People want to collaborate and help – you just have to ask.”

“As a result of a significant price increase by Mindbody, we made a full software switch to the New Zealand-based Gymmaster. In the long-term this is much more affordable and will make life easier, thanks to their integrated Zoom platform, which we use for online classes. We are using the yoga studio option called Serenity.”

"Ask for help, accept help; you’re not meant to do this alone. We got permission from our landlord for free use of a bigger space on the premises. People want to collaborate and support"

“I reduced the team of contractors, reopening with seven teachers versus the 11 we had prior to lockdown.”

“Going forward, we’re planning to get things automated and running efficiently as possible, to keep a model that can easily adapt to the change in restriction levels. My instinct is that we will be dealing with changes back and forth for some time.”

“If in doubt about whether something compromises people’s health, don’t do it. Implement the highest standards you can, so people feel safe; don’t cut corners rushing to get back to how you were. Ask for help, accept help; you’re not meant to do this alone.”

Grassroots has the same costs, but half the capacity coming out of lockdown
Les Mills Clubs, New Zealand
Brett Sutton
Clubs: 12
Reopened: 15 May

“We’ve had an uptick in online sales since we reopened, so our website has proved very useful. We use Microsoft PowerBI and Dynamics CRM to keep track of what’s happening in real time.”

“Our main focus is on reactivating members who put their membership on pause, while at the same time ensuring our people are confident and optimistic about what lies ahead.”

“The biggest challenge has been getting clarity from the government regarding studio/room limits. The second biggest challenge was that distancing requirements put pressure on our popular classes and we had to turn people away from certain classes.”

“Working with our sister company, Les Mills International, we offered our members Les Mills On Demand for free during lockdown, allowing members to train from the comfort of their own homes.”

Four weeks since opening our doors and we are at 88 per cent of our normal attendance

“Reopening has gone well and members have been very respectful of the measures we have in place. Four weeks since opening our doors we’re at 88 per cent of normal attendance.”

“We’ve opened our doors with around 70 per cent of our previous staffing levels.”

“Do scenario planning, keep members and staff informed, think about your reputation. People will remember how you treated them and what you did in this period.”

Les Mills has had an increase in online sales since reopening
Total Fusion, Australia
Leon and Michelle McNiece
The McNieces consulted with members to create a realistic timetable of classes
Clubs: 3
Reopened: 3 June

“Each of our studios is fitted with industry-leading air purification systems. These systems are equipped with UV light sterilisation and can stop the growth of 99.99 per cent of all microorganisms and common germs that go through the filters.”

“We paid particular attention to our staff briefing and made sure that on top of all the hygiene protocols, we implemented a safe speaking and supportive environment to handle any enhanced stress our team may face throughout these uncertain times.”

“We created a spacing campaign titled ‘Room to Move’, which prompts members to keep social distancing up, while doubling as an encouraging slogan that promotes the safe moving space we have in our studios.” “Our app-booking and check-in system was helpful in eliminating physical touchpoints at our receptions.”

“Attendance has been extremely high and our safe-opening measures have been well received. Members respect that measures are in place to ensure their safety and understand the more considerate they are, the better chance we have of returning to normal sooner!”

"Be prepared for frequent change and ask your members for feedback. They’re your bread and butter and often possess great insight in regards to expectations "

“Having timetables on standby that best coped with our anticipated member demand has been a bit of a juggle. To combat this, we sent out a brand-wide survey asking members about their readiness to re-attend and their class expectations to help shape the most realistic reopening timetable and plan.”

“Everyone is now back at work and returning to normal hours.”

“We’re continuing to populate our virtual library so that those waiting to come back still have some form of movement inspiration every day.

We’re edging closer to normal every day and are continually training and adjusting our plans to reflect government directives as they come.”

“When it comes to best advice for reopening, we’d recommend taking baby steps – be prepared for frequent change and ask your members for feedback.

Each gym is fitted with an air purification system and UV light sterilisation

Originally published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 7

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