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Recap: Thinking Like a Retailer in Fitness


On October 14, IHRSA, REX Roundtables and Club Solutions Magazine presented the 28th installment of a weekly virtual roundtable series, on the subject of maximizing retail operations, aimed at helping clubs navigate through the COVID-19 crisis. This roundtable is brought to you by Jonas Fitness.

Panelists included Jon Brady, the president of Midtown Athletic Clubs; Meredith Rosson, the assistant general manager of Cooper Fitness Center; Bill McBride, the co-founder, president and CEO of Active Wellness; and Blair McHaney, the CEO of MXM and owner of WORX health clubs. The discussion was led and moderated by Brent Darden, the interim president and CEO of IHRSA, and chair of REX Roundtables.

The following is a summary of top takeaways from the discussion, centered on optimizing retail operations and turning retail into a viable profit center:


  • You’re in the retail business as much as you’re in the club business.
  • Disney World is a good example of how to create a retail experience in a health club — when you get off a ride at Disney World, you always exit through the gift shop. At your club, put your retail store front and center, and design your space to naturally guide members by the retail space.
    • Create a “sense of arrival” for members — they should look forward to the experience they’re about to have — and the retail store is a part of that.
    • These same principles can apply to your studios — create a differentiated experience for members to look forward to, something that heightens their level of anticipation.
  • Seek guidance from experts in great experiences from outside the industry.
  • At the end of a hard workout, members feel a sense of accomplishment and want to reward themselves — your club’s retail store is the perfect opportunity to help them get that reward.
  • In general, the fitness industry hasn’t been very intentional about retail operations.
    • Don’t do retail as a background task. You need to strategically think as a retailer — only then will retail spaces become core business functions and turn real revenue.
  • It’s important to keep fresh inventory at your retail stores so you’re able to keep members interested.
  • If you have multiple locations, be sure to differentiate your inventory based on various demographics. Know your market.
  • Use your website to complement and promote your retail operations.
  • Members should associate your retail store with their lifestyle — the way they dress, the food they eat, the experiences they want to have, etc.
  • Retail stores can absolutely be profitable. As long as they’re positioned based on your demographics, they’re worth your time.
  • Partnerships with brands are a great opportunity to enhance your club’s retail experience.
    • If a brand has a new product being released, consider hosting an event at your club for them to promote that product.
  • Find the “Kodak spots” in your club — places in your facility that will catch members’ eyes and make them want to congregate, take photos and post to social media.
  • When planning your inventory, bear in mind different brands fit differently for people.
  • Consider keeping smaller, lesser-known brands in your retail store. Your members want to feel unique, so having products they can’t find anywhere else will encourage them to buy from you.
  • Use aromas and scents, as well as certain colors in your retail space — it’s a science. Certain aromas and colors can encourage people to make purchases.
    • These are effective, inexpensive ways to help create a great experience.
    • Don’t overdo it, however. Too much of a scent or too obnoxious of a color scheme can be a turnoff for members.
  • Retail events can help drive sales by giving members a feeling of not wanting to miss out on something.
  • Bring in local retailers to sell their products in your club — this can bring a new, fun energy to the building.
  • Put your staff in featured apparel that you’re selling while they’re in the club.
  • Everyone is a consumer. Think about what entices you, as a consumer, to make purchases, and apply those principles to your club. Think like a retailer.

To access the on-demand version of this webinar, click here.

To access the audio-only version of this webinar, click here.

UPCOMING: Don’t miss the 29th installment of our virtual roundtable series, “Successful Strategies for Shaping Your Future: Research & Data You Can Use in Your Club” on Wednesday, October 14 at 2 p.m. EST. Limited seats are available. Click here to reserve your spot.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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