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Podcast Episode 10: Mark Miller on Gym Rebounding Strategies

Mark Miller, COO of Merritt Clubs

As clubs continue to reopen across the U.S., and others face the potential of a second wave of shutdowns, many operators are looking for new revenue streams and rebounding strategies to help offset losses.

In episode #10 of the Club Solutions Magazine podcast, host Rachel Zabonick-Chonko spoke with Mark Miller, the COO of Merritt Clubs in Maryland, on the strategies the brand is using to rebound post-COVID. They touch on the revenue opportunities in virtual fitness and corporate wellness, how Miller is coping with the lack of sports, and much more.

Show Notes

  • Merritt Clubs shutdown on March 16, and on June 19 was able to reopen its county-based facilities.
  • During the months of being shutdown, Merritt Clubs made a number of improvements, including:
    • Putting systems/processes in place to ensure a safe environment, including adding sanitizing stations and social distancing equipment.
    • Fully evaluating the club’s operations and identifying areas of improvement, such as going to a cashless operation, revamping food areas, adding reservation technology for Group X and kids club, updating the club’s mobile app, and more.
  • According to Miller, Merritt Clubs has learned the need for the company to be diversified. “We can’t rely so much on just membership dues,” he said.
  • Concerning member re-engagement: “We have to have a reengagement strategy for all the people who will have remained on freeze, or have possibly canceled during this period of time, and think about how we can strategize going after them and getting them back on billing,” said Miller.
  • Merritt Clubs is considering a virtual-only membership to give the business an additional ancillary revenue stream. It is also prioritizing personal training and corporate wellness and looking into virtual summer camps.
  • If schools are still closed in the fall, Miller believes this could be an opportunity for gyms to step up to take some of the burden off parents.
  • According to Miller, a lot of younger members are reporting they’ve built their own at-home fitness centers and established workout routines at home, or are taking classes via a virtual app, and that’s a main reason they’re not returning to the club. “How do we reach that market?” Miller pondered.
  • The duo reference ClubIntel’s report, “What Members Say is Needed if Health/Fitness Facilities Want them Back.” The report presents the final findings and insights of ClubIntel’s study exploring the behaviors and experiences of U.S. fitness facility members pre-COVID closures, during COVID-19 closures and finally, member sentiments toward returning to their health/fitness facility upon reopening. Click here to access it in full. 
  • Employees are realizing how important it is to be healthy, and Miller believes they’ll be pushing their employers to have more corporate wellness offerings as a result. This could provide your gym with an opportunity.
  • Miller discusses the VUCA concept and its applicability today. “We have to let yesterday go and realize we have to build a new model for today,” he said.
  • Miller touches on marketing strategies. “The days of pricing and trying to discount — I think those days are gone,” he said.
  • “Clubs have gotten a bad rap, but really we have some great operators and leaders in this industry,” said Miller. “And I think we need to push that message out there, that we’re an essential part of our communities and we can take care of people.”
  • Miller talks about the importance of modeling and other financial strategies.
  • “Stay strong,” said Miller. “Be courageous. Don’t give up.”
  • Miller talks about the woes of not having sports to watch during this time.

Be sure to subscribe to the Club Solutions Magazine podcast on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud and Spotify.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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