Make the Upgrade
A gym is like a second home. Members should feel welcomed and comfortable. The locker room, specifically, is the place where the greatest level of comfort ought to be found — where members can seek refuge and relax from a strenuous workout, nagging boss or anything else life throws their way.
“First thing — it needs to smell good,” said Paul Atkins, in charge of club planning and design for Club One. “If it smells bad, something is wrong. If it’s lit properly, is second. Everyone thinks a fluorescent bulb is a fluorescent bulb, and it’s not.” Atkins explained that bulbs have different Kelvin measurements in addition to wattage. Clubs should check these measurements to ensure consistent lighting throughout locker rooms.
In addition to the basic look and feel of a locker room, cleanliness is what members will notice immediately. Club H members expect attentiveness and cleanliness that rival any 5-star hotel, said Caitlin Layson, a manager on duty, at Club H’s Hoboken, N.J., location. “We meet our expectations by constantly replenishing toiletries and making sure every member has exactly what they need in order to have a positive locker room experience.”
Billy Malkovich, the CEO of Mountainside Fitness, said that cleanliness ranks at the top of importance to a member according to consumer research performed by Mountainside. “Keeping a high use facility clean is something that takes money and effort — mainly effort,” Malkovich said. “To ensure we meet our customers’ high standards, we employ a full-time cleaning crew for each facility.”
For those that have overnight cleaning crews, Atkins suggested that a manager drop in once a month in the evening to inspect the job of the cleaning crew.
Locker rooms are a great opportunity to impress your members. This will take vigilance from the staff, but the result is significant. “We try to wow members by making sure we are attentive to their needs — if they are in need of more towels that instantly becomes our main priority,” Layson said. Club H offers their members basic at-home needs, such as razors, shaving cream, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Club One offers similar amenities — basically anything a guest might need in a guest bathroom.
Mountainside uses locker rooms as an opportunity to differentiate itself from the competition. “Our members enter the locker rooms through a movie theatre lounge complete with comfortable seating and a 10-foot by 10-foot movie theatre screen,” Malkovich said. The thought behind the theatre lounge is that Mountainside recognized that its business model is more dependent on member usage than new member acquisition, so they have created an environment that is not only functional for workout space, but is also for socializing and relaxing.
Impressing your members is all about your effort. Atkins discussed hangers in locker rooms are such a small cost, but really show members you’re thinking of them and their needs. Use the wooden ones he advised, or even plastic, but not the wire ones because they lose their shape.
Lockers themselves can seem limiting. Atkins developed an easy solution to space issues at his clubs — he added a bank of lockers outside of the locker room where members who didn’t need a lot of space could store personal items. “Lots of people don’t need a whole locker,” he said. “It was very inexpensive and it didn’t take away from anything, it added something.”
Renting lockers to members can be an extension of your club’s hospitality as well as a mini profit center. Atkins said their members are thrilled to pay for their locker services. For a monthly fee, Club One members can rent a personal locker that ensures their workout clothes are laundered every night and replaced the next morning with the addition of a fresh towel. Club H rents lockers to members yearly as well as providing the option of additional laundry services. To avoid confusion, they keep an Excel spreadsheet that allows the club to easily view the locker room amenities members have purchased.
“In addition to the 150 plus day-use lockers that we provide free of charge, we have a separate area containing 50 or so reserved executive lockers,” Malkovich said. “Included in your executive locker is laundry service. We will also take care of your dry cleaning and every time you open your locker you will find a bottle of water, shower towel and a mint. Currently, our executive lockers are sold out, and on a waiting list, at all ten of our locations.”
When it comes to locker room etiquette, Club One takes a very adult approach. “You don’t see signs in a hotel lobby telling you all the things you’re not supposed to do and we don’t do that either,” Atkins said. “One, because these people are adults and two, we want people to be comfortable. Negative signage doesn’t change behavior.” Any signage in Club One’s locker rooms is designed to protect members.
Anytime you have 7,000 people sharing a common space, the chances of offending someone is high, explained Malkvoich, but he doesn’t see it as their job to legislate people’s behavior. “There’s a well-respected study commonly referred to as ‘Broken Windows’ in which the researchers concluded that people act according to their surroundings. Allow for an unkempt, unsafe and ill-mannered environment and your members will act as such. Create a clean, safe and considerate environment and your customers will act accordingly.”
Maintaining the locker room’s environment is essential to pleasing members. Staying up-to-date and making little upgrades whenever possible creates a high-end impression from members. “We try and update our locker room yearly, but being that the locker room was originally designed with a very modern layout, maintenance is all that is really necessary,” Cayson said.
Aktins implores general managers with staying on top of their locker rooms, saying they should constantly be inspecting the facility for any possible problems. When it comes to evaluating your facility for members, you must think of what’s the best value for what you’re charging, Atkins continued. “You just have to show an effort. Do whatever you can do; even it’s just a basic locker room. Then, you make it the cleanest basic locker room possible. Your members will notice.” -CS
By Ali Cicerchi