Alex Wolf, the vice president of customer success for Swift Financial Services, sat down with Best Fitness CEO Dave Dos Santos to hit on the topics of where we are, where we’re going and why we can’t ignore cash flow recovery — especially now.
Give us a quick gut-check. Where is the gym industry right now? Are we back in business? Still in recovery? Something else?
DDS: People are definitely coming back to the gym, but I wouldn’t say we’re fully recovered. From what I’m seeing, the longer you were in lockdown, the longer it’s going to take for you to recover. So different parts of the country — and different gyms and studios — are recovering at different paces.
For many clubs, successful recovery meant reimagining the way they do business. As such, is there anything new you’ve introduced this year?
DDS: We’ve made a lot of operational changes to ensure we’re doing business even better — and to ensure we’re meeting members where they are right now. Everything has changed so much over the last two years and we need to be smart, be agile and respond accordingly. We’ve definitely focused more on digital — virtually all of our new members come through our site or social media. They’ve been trained to research everything online, then make a decision.
At the same time, we never wanted to rely on models that weren’t “us” — that didn’t suit who and what we are as a brick-and-mortar club. The shift to virtual, we know, was only temporary.
We saw a lot of clubs try to pivot hard during the pandemic, and some went too far. Now they’re struggling to come back. Maybe they went all digital and now members don’t want to come back in person.
What about your cash flow recovery processes?
DDS: Cash flow recovery — collections, getting members back on draft, streamlining sales — has been a big piece of our recovery. It’s also a process that’s changed quite a bit, and we’ve been pushed to centralize processes more and more. If in the past I had four salespeople, suddenly I had one or two. Clubs are running leaner and pushing teams to do more. My team has been fantastic about it. They do a great job and have continuously stepped up. We’ve also relied on partners, especially for cash flow recovery and third-party collections. That frees our team up to focus on sales and customer service.
As you look ahead and into the next six to 12 months, what industry trends are you planning for?
DDS: I think we’re going to see some of the pandemic-powered trends start to really cool off. In-home workouts are a great example — they thrived during the pandemic. While home workouts will always have their place, nothing truly replaces the brick-and-mortar experience. People want the community, accountability and the structure. That comes from getting up and going to the health club.
I also see price sensitivity starting to cool. Gyms don’t have to charge $19 a month to stay competitive. If people are willing to pay $15 for a sandwich, why can’t they pay $30 for a gym membership? I see $50 to $60 — in many markets — as being the sweet spot. People will be willing to pay more and get a little more.