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Some people who work in the health club industry leave and never come back. That wasn’t the case for David Bell, the executive vice president and general manager of YB Fitness in Short Hills, New Jersey.
After working for Crunch for seven years, Bell left to enter the world of private equity and real estate development in 2003, eventually opening up his own branding company in 2009. In late 2014, an opportunity to re-join the health and fitness industry presented itself. At that time, Bell was a member of CAN DO Fitness, and the club went up for sale. Bell pitched Alex Crispo, another member of CAN DO Fitness, on the idea of purchasing the club and re-branding it as YB Fitness.
Crispo and his wife, Lori, backed Bell’s business plan, along with partner Tamer Ibrahim. “We closed the transaction in about three months,” recalled Bell.
Because the transaction was made so quickly, they didn’t have much time to educate members about the new brand. “Nobody had any clue, nor would I expect them to, to know what YB Fitness means,” recalled Bell. “We had to introduce ourselves to the members.”
Bell explained YB Fitness stands for “Your Body” Fitness. But instead of focusing on marketing the re-branded club to new members, the leadership team decided to focus on fixing the issues that had caused CAN DO Fitness to close in the first place, and re-introduce the improved brand to existing members.
When the club was purchased, its attrition was roughly 65 percent. Bell and his team fought extremely hard to remedy that by providing members with a top-notch customer service experience. The goal was to make people feel as comfortable as possible while in the club — providing a much higher level of energy and a significantly cleaner environment. “We pass out spa towels after every cardio class and we really have done a lot to upgrade our customer service,” said Bell.
Another change to the club was enhancements to its youth fitness options. Bell explained they cut rates for youth and teens by almost half. “So far, we have about 250 month-to-month high school students who come to our gym,” he said. “It’s so cool. If you see our gym from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., you see all the kids who I used to know growing up, [including] friends of my oldest son, Aaron. They come in, and they’re 16, 17, 18, and they’re either working in small group training, participating in group fitness classes or doing cardio.”
Now that YB Fitness’ members have grown accustomed to the change, Bell said they’ve started marketing outside the club to raise awareness in the local community.
“As I sit here, nine months in, we have reduced attrition by more than 50 percent,” said Bell. “We’re growing our customer base steadily because we knew that we had a former [following of members] that always wanted to come back, because our location, staff and classes are so strong — it’s just letting them know that we understand why they left and providing the services they deserve to come back.”
To Bell, YB Fitness has a lot going for it. “We have studio-style curriculum and instructors, and we have such a great location,” he said. “We can’t understand why people would want to spend more money, deal with parking, when they can take their barre class and their cycle class and get the same experience, and even better, [here] under one roof.”