Consumer attitudes towards health club membership differ between social generations, which is significant when analyzing why consumers join, stay, and leave, according to the IHRSA Trend Report volume 2 issue 1. Released at the end of 2012, the report offers a revealing look at health club membership trends and behaviors for 3rd quarter 2008 -2012, providing valuable insight that can aid in planning effective program and sales strategies.
The report reflects a common desire ‘to stay healthy’, amongst all age groups as illustrated by 53% of all responders when asked ‘Why people join Health Clubs”. Not joining a health club because it is: “too expensive”, resulted in a 55% overall response rate, yet the report shows this most predominant in age groups 31+: Over 55% of Generation X (ages 31 – 45), Baby Boomers (ages 46 – 65), and those in the Eisenhower Generation (66+ ) will collectively say that a club is too expensive to join compared to 48% of those in Generation Y (ages 21 – 30) and 39% of those in Generation Z (ages16 -20). Gen Z is the group most often to cite 'No time' and 'participate in other exercise activities' as joining barriers. Although expenses are a priority for an Eisenhower, they are most likely to avoid joining due to 'not currently exercising' and 'current injury', while Gen Z’s are more likely than other groups to avoid joining for “not knowing what to do” or “don’t know anybody”.
'Too expensive, could not afford it' is also the highest overall response (41%) for “Why Club Members Quit.” Yet concerns by generation were sometimes reversed from those that affected joining: Expenses may have been an initial barrier, but the Eisenhower member is the LEAST likely (at 26%) to cite 'too expensive' as a reason for quitting the club compared to 49% of Gen Z members who will quit because of affordability. Interestingly, both the Eisenhower’s and Gen Z’s (at 33% each) are the groups most likely to respond “not using’ as the reason for leaving.
Gen Y’s as a group are most likely to quit their gym because they ‘met their fitness goals’. Consistently concerned about finances 43% of Baby Boomers will quit their membership due to lack of funds, but they are also the ones most likely to leave due to 'relocation'. The Eisenhower’s are the thriftiest: 48% of them will quit the gym because ‘they could exercise somewhere else for free’. Gen X’s collectively have no stand outs after ‘too expensive’ for quitting above any other group.
Generational needs vary, as well as why one joins or leaves a health club/gym, which is important for operators to know when devising sales and retention strategies for their target market: what may attract one generation initially may change from what is essential for them to remain. Price may be a key factor, but dependent on the generational make-up of your club, a focus on sales/program strategies geared towards non-exercisers, injury prevention/ rehab, age appropriate member engagement activities, favorable terms for relocation etc. when highlighted, may prove a significant driver in improving club sales and retention.