Location, Location, Location

Q. I am opening a new fitness facility. What do I need to consider as I begin searching for the best location?? – Jorge Canepa, the owner of Pur Fitness in Tampa, Fla.

A. This is a very exciting time for your business. The best advice I can give is to take your time, do your research, and don’t commit too quickly to the first decent location. The best location for your fitness business depends on many different factors.

Visibility:
You need to be where the people are. Some gyms have succeeded in obscure locations, but many more have struggled or failed. The idea of below-market rent in a less-than-ideal location might be appealing, but in nearly all cases, the revenues generated in a visible location exceed the expenses saved from a cheaper, less desirable location. Focus your search on those areas that have heavy traffic, high visibility or preferably both.

Economy:
While every community could benefit from having a fitness provider, not every community is right for a fitness business. Make sure you pay attention to the reputation of the area that you want to locate your facility. Even if the location is convenient to you, it might be an area that is heavily affected by recession or other income-related factors.

Parking:
Many new club owners forget the importance of parking. Next to cleanliness of facility, lack of parking is the number one complaint for health clubs of all sizes. Make sure you have ample parking in the location you plan to open your business.

Competition:
There are two ways to look at the presence of competition. On one hand, an area with no competition will allow you to be the only option in town. On the other hand, it might mean that demand for a fitness business is low in the area. Your best chance at success many times is to locate your facility in a community with some competition, but to niche your business appropriately so that you are the only one offering whatever it is you offer. You can establish a gender specific facility, a low-cost facility, a high-end facility, a personal training studio or some other type of offering that the community lacks.

Cost:
You need to take a long hard look at the budget you have to work with. You’ll need to evaluate the cost to hire employees in that area, the amount good personal trainers expect for compensation, the cost of electricity, heat, air and other utilities, the cost of building out your space, the amount of equipment you’ll need and many other budget considerations.

Laws:
You’ll need to thoroughly research the desired area for any restrictions on your lease, zoning rules for the area, if you’ll be able to expand the business, if there are local laws against the hours you plan to have your club open, bonding issues for your state or other regulations of the local government, etc. A good place to start will be your local Small Business Development Center and a local attorney.

Demographics:
You absolutely must take into account the prospect base in the area. Will there be enough demand for what you are offering? Is the community making progress or is it in a depressed area? What is the median income in the area and will residents have expendable income for your services? Make sure you do your research — talk to city planners, the local economic development office; conduct surveys of the local residents and have a full understanding of the competition in the area. You must know all of this information before committing to a location.

Get Help:

You will want to develop a team around you as you search for your ideal location. A qualified consultant, an accountant, an attorney, your financial backer, a real estate agent and the local Small Business Development Center will provide a solid team as you work through all of the above considerations. Be humble enough to ask for help and assemble the best team possible.

The above is an abbreviated list of some of the things you need to consider when opening a new facility. There are still many more things to consider. Make sure you talk to as many people as possible, read as many books as possible and research absolutely everything about the locations you are considering. Do these things and your chances for success will be much greater. -CS

Curtis Mock is the host of www.fitnessbusinesstelevision.com, the TV show for fitness entrepreneurs and is the executive director of GymSuccess.com. Curtis can be reached via e-mail at Curtis@ClubSolutionsMagazine.com.

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