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In Print

Quality Over Quantity

Los Angeles Athletic Club

Planet Fitness has over 1,000 locations with a $10-a-month-membership offer. 24 Hour Fitness operates over 400 clubs across 17 states with a membership cost less than $50 a month. Anytime Fitness has 2,310 clubs with a membership fee around $30. And the list goes on and on.

It’s no secret that larger chains and low-price clubs have gained serious momentum in the industry. So how do you compete? Here are two clubs that are both taking different approaches to stand out and make a mark.

Studio South Fitness

webLocated in Sarasota, Florida, Studio South Fitness not only has to compete with other clubs in the area, but it also has to compete with nature. Who wants to spend their time inside a gym when it is 80 degrees and sunny outside? To keep members coming through the doors, Studio South Fitness has found its niche: a personalized experience.

“The thing that makes us unique is probably the highly personalized service that we give members,” said Tiffany Liashek, the owner of Studio South Fitness. “So much of the facility is designed around the aspect of personal training. Our personal trainers are also our Group X instructors, so they are able to build their books based off the people that take their classes as well.”

With a focus on personalized training, Studio South Fitness does not offer any large group classes. Instead the club caps all classes at eight people. “It inadvertently becomes a small, semi-private training session,” said Michael Brigger, the general manager at Studio South Fitness. “Even though it is technically called group exercise, the trainer is able to create a more individualized program. Our business is much more about the individualized customer service experience, and the members love it because we know everything about them.”

According to Brigger, through this distinct member experience, Studio South Fitness has developed a signature brand within the community. “Over the past few years, we have really positioned ourselves as being the experts for training,” he added. “If someone is coming out of therapy or getting ready to have surgery, anything that requires a high level of expertise we provide. We have been able to brand ourselves as the people who know how to do this.”

This personalized approach is exactly what separates Studio South Fitness from the competition in the area. Liashek explained members know they are valued and not simply another number. “We know our members’ names when they walk in the building, we know if their grandson has a birthday. We don’t do our business in volume. We really get to know our members on a different level, because they are coming in more often for that one-on-one service.”

Los Angeles Athletic Club

Los Angeles Athletic Club In contrast, Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC) takes an all-inclusive approach in order to compete. Instead of focusing on a specific service, the club strives to be a one-stop destination for all fitness needs. “Our approach to health is extremely comprehensive,” said Cory Hathaway, the assistant general manager. “We offer a wide array of fitness classes, sports and exercise facilities, combined with two restaurants serving healthy food and fresh juices.”

Founded in 1880, the Los Angeles Athletic Club was the city’s first private club. Throughout the years it has updated the facility to include pro-style lockers, a new spa facility, classic barbershop and salon, high-end athletic retail and even a speakeasy. Members can also choose from a wide variety of options like group exercises classes, personal training and competitive sports such as basketball, handball, squash and volleyball.

“Our approach is to emphasize human connection and community. We do this by offering social events and tournaments based on the individual sports that we offer,” said Hathaway. “For example, our handball community has sat down for a holiday dinner together every year for the last 50 years. These social interactions create a tight-knit community that creates a long-term connection to Los Angeles Athletic Club.”

According to Hathaway, this tight-knit community is precisely what keeps Los Angeles Athletic Club ahead of other clubs. “Our membership environment is very similar to a country club where members are connected by their common interest in sports,” he said. “Our largest sports communities are basketball, swimming and squash and we do not see any of the low-priced brands offering these sports in a lifestyle environment. Our approach is to build on our sports communities, introduce new people to the sports we offer and bring the members to these communities and create as much social interaction as possible.”

Bottom Line

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. While the personalized service approach of Studio South Fitness appeals to some, the all-inclusive community approach appeals to others. But when trying to differentiate yourself from the competition, it is important to find a niche. What is your brand and how can you use that to win members?

Emily Harbourne

Emily Harbourne is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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