On the latest installment of the Thought Leaders digital roundtable series, four panelists sat down to discuss the top trends for 2023.
While some facilities have taken longer than others to rebound from the impacts of COVID-19, 2022 proved the industry is looking up. With an overall positive year behind us, many operators are looking at what lies ahead for 2023.
On the latest installment of the Thought Leaders digital roundtable series, four panelists sat down to discuss the top trends for the new year.
One major trend they noted is the fastest growing sport in America — pickleball.
“I think one of the big reasons for our success historically — and really what got us through COVID-19 — were our paddle and racquet sports,” said Frank Lawrence, the CEO of Little Rock Athletic Clubs. “Tennis continued to be our No. 1 business. Those members were sticky for us and stayed with us strong through COVID-19. Those programs have just continued to really thrive. My focus in 2023 — and I think for a lot of organizations — is around pickleball. We are about to invest a significant amount of money and build a large indoor facility.”
Cher Harris, the general manager of The Houstonian Club, echoed the importance of pickleball.
“It’s a trend that’s not going away,” said Harris. “We sell memberships on it. They are loud and proud, demanding, and they’re very social. It’s growing beyond anything else.”
For Joe Cirulli, the owner and CEO of Gainesville Health & Fitness, hiring top talent is a trend that will carry over into 2023.
“I think one of those most critical things, and this is where we work the hardest, is making sure we differentiate our company by our staff and not just by facilities,” said Cirulli.
He explained everybody in the industry has similar offerings and one way to stand out is through your staff. Additionally, Cirulli emphasized the importance of proper training and staff education from the get-go.
Perhaps on topic everyone has their eyes on is the future of the economy.
“The economy is a concern for us, as it is for everyone,” said Harris. “Our sales for November and December have slowed down pretty significantly so that could be alarming going into 2023.”
While a recession is looming, one positive note Lawrence added was unlike the pandemic, this economic uncertainty isn’t crisis management — it’s managing margins which the industry is used to doing.
“I think a lot of different vendors and partners, and just people all around our network of expenses, baked in these price increases and expectation of inflation and part of inflation,” added Assaf Gal, a Crunch franchisee. “I think it’s always a good time to go back to all your vendors and partners and just ask. See if there’s a discount or if there’s some way they can help. Even if it’s the cable bill or internet bill, remove some cable boxes or put UPshow in instead. I don’t think you’re going to find one thing that just makes all that margin back but taking it back in little bits in many different places will certainly add up.”
Another topic to watch in 2023 is the rise of AI. While it may not be ready to fully integrate yet, the panelists are keeping a pulse on it.
“I think you’re seeing [AI] in all industries, and I think it’s going to see how it plays out and automates the ability to help us maybe reduce labor costs going forward,” said Lawrence. “All that to be said, we’re still providing that human connection, that place where people want to meet and engage with people. So it’s an interesting balance we’ll see over the next five to 10 years.”
Other trends to pay attention to in 2023 include:
- Adding more strength equipment and reducing cardo.
- Member’s expectations.
- Recovery services like hyperbaric chambers, cryotherapy, IVs and more.
- People craving community.
- Younger generations filming themselves working out.
While going into a new year is exciting and filled with endless new trends to consider, the panelists also recommended removing things that no longer serve their purpose.
“Don’t forget to scrape the barnacles,” said Gal. “It’s what should we stop doing, not just what are we adding. Take the time to think about what no longer serves us.”