A common trend in health clubs is the addition of a dedicated retail store, complete with branded apparel and other products. Because it’s a great way to generate extra revenue and improve member engagement, you might consider adding one to your facility.
In fact, the combination of health clubs and retail is becoming more popular nationwide. “In a 2016 study, Club Industry found the average gym member visited their gym 106 times for the year, which means as a retail operator you have on average 106 opportunities to make a sale per member annually,” said Meredith Rosson, the assistant general manager of Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas. “Lately, owners of malls have recognized this trend and are starting to seek gyms as an addition to the traditional shopping mall in order to regain the regular foot traffic that’s been lost with the impact of online shopping.”
If operated correctly, a fully stocked retail store can elevate your club’s brand to a new level, and it starts with picking your products, knowing how to maximize profits, and finding the right staff members.
The first step in your retail store journey is deciding what merchandise to stock. There are obvious choices — T-shirts and water bottles come to mind — but there are other products your members would love as well.
This is where a buyer comes into play. If you’re going to run a fully functioning retail store, hiring a buyer — someone who selects and reviews products to help businesses stock relevant merchandise — is a wise choice.
“Our buyer brings years of retail experience that has finely-tuned her natural buying abilities for our customers,” said Rosson. “Every buyer should regularly seek feedback from their customers in order to make good decisions when deciding upon apparel or products to bring in.”
You pay attention to the equipment pieces or amenities your members love the most, and the same concept applies to retail. “One of the best locations to get honest customer feedback is near the dressing room,” said Rosson. “This is when you will hear the comments about specific lines you carry, cuts that work or don’t work and what customers desire in their shopping experience.”
It’s also beneficial to carry unique merchandise to set yourself apart. “We know our customers love receiving the boutique experience of purchasing a unique piece they know everyone around Dallas won’t be wearing — so we are constantly seeking new lines to carry,” said Rosson.
According to Rosson, there are four practices clubs can employ to maximize profits within their retail stores.
The first is to take educated risks. This relies on listening and paying attention to what your members want and need. “Gaining customer feedback and using social media for feedback before bringing in a new line or product will help you move forward,” said Rosson. “If you have a successful month, really dig into the levers you pulled to make that happen.”
The second practice is to align your products with services in the club. Try making T-shirts with artwork for specific programs or gym bags with your logo — any product that creates a stronger connection between your members and your offerings. “The more synergy your store can have with your club’s overall mission, the more likely your customer will be interested in what you have to sell,” said Rosson.
The third practice is to make shopping social. One of the oldest truths of consumers is they aren’t likely to go anywhere they’re not invited, so it’s imperative for you to invite them. “Hosting shopping events, such as trunk shows, that have an elevated experience and create a social experience for your customers is a wonderful way to make them feel appreciated,” said Rosson.
Finally, you should ask how available you are to your customer. As is the case with any retail business, accessibility will be a difference-maker in your success. “If a customer’s only option to know what you have in the store is to come during business hours, you might lose a good deal of business,” said Rosson. “By at least presenting your apparel or products online or via social media, you allow customers to shop on their own timeline.”
Once you have the space set aside and the products picked out, you have to find someone to man the retail store counter.
According to Rosson, it’s important they be more than adequate salespeople, or you might not be able to capitalize on the opportunity to boost profits. “The busiest times in your club will often reflect the peak times in your store for both sales and customer foot traffic,” she said. “As an operator, you will want to have your strongest sales representative available during this time.”
It might take some trial and error to find the right retail store manager — be sure the individual you choose is personable with members.
“Our top sales teammates are best at building relationships with our customers,” said Rosson. “When new apparel comes in they think a customer might like, they don’t wait for them to come to the store — they take a proactive sales approach and let the customer know about it. This provides a very personalized experience to the customer and builds loyalty to our store.”