Club across the U.S. are fearing a second shutdown. Here’s what to do.
On Friday, the U.S. reported just over 100,000 new infections of the coronavirus — “a new all-time high for cases confirmed in a single, 24-hour period,” according to Reuters.
As a result, many gym operators are fearing second closures of their businesses are on the horizon. Just last week, gyms in Colorado fought to remain open as certain counties in the state entered Level 3 COVID-19 restrictions.
According to Scott Gillespie, the president and owner of Saco Sport & Fitness and founder of the Maine Fitness Coalition, the fear of a second shutdown is warranted. And, the time to take action is now.
Here, Gillespie shares the four steps clubs should be executing to safeguard against a second wave of shutdowns, in his own words.
Step One: Get Ahead of It
Don’t wait helplessly for talks of a second shutdown to pop up in your state. Get ahead of it. Be proactive to prevent it.
If you haven’t already, you should create a state fitness alliance and start messaging and educating state policymakers using positive data — like IHRSA and MXM’s Visits to Virus data — that showcases fitness centers are not where COVID is being spread.
IHRSA has created a State Alliance Headlight team with all the tools any state would need to create their own alliance. Messaging includes, “People are getting healthy in fitness centers and we are essential,” and highlight the fact we are not in the same high-risk pool as bars, restaurants and churches. We have the data, now we need to use it. The message is, “The health benefits to exercise are far greater than the potential, very small risk of contracting COVID in a gym.”
In addition, hire a lobbyist familiar with the players, politics and type of communication that work in your state. If 20-plus clubs each contribute $1,000 to $2,000 you’ll have $20,000 to $50,000, which can get quite a lot accomplished. Ultimately, it is pennies compared to the lost income of being closed.
Lastly, if you are currently closed, go to war. Build your state alliance. Continue to fight using data and reason and the expertise of a lobbyist. Be a squeaky wheel. Engage your members — they are all voters, and politicians and policymakers as elected officials want to be re-elected. We serve 25% of their constituents.
Step Two: Beef Up Virtual and Outdoor Offerings
Start now on beefing up virtual and outdoor offerings, personal training, streaming group exercise, small group training, fitness on demand, and nutrition and health coach telemedicine. Be prepared to be able to serve your members, generate revenue and pay staff if closed.
Step Three: Reserve Cash
Cash is king. Do another deep dive into expenses. How can you save money and conserve cash? If a second shutdown happens, plan on being closed at least two times as long as they estimate. You may have to furlough or lay off some employees again. Reach out to landlords and mortgage holders for relief. Look at every line item and transaction on your general ledger. Look at the performance of each department since you’ve reopened. Are any of them no longer profitable?
Step Four: Communicate
Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more with your members. As fears of a second shutdown loom, educate your members about COVID safety, what you’ve done and how you will care for them if closed through virtual and outdoor programming. Market how you’re adapting.