The previous article, Health clubs: The problem, highlighted the evidence that health club membership has been on the decline and noted that a large percentage of overweight and obese persons do not feel comfortable in the typical health club environment.
The article then posed this theory: If health clubs catered to those who most need them they would increase membership significantly and therefore increase profits. I offer you one example of such success that is available internationally and...right here in Charlotte.
In the search for clubs that actually strive to provide a comfortable, supportive atmosphere for those who need it, Curves is the one that stood out. Since opening its first doors in 1992, Curves has opened franchises and expanded its membership at an astonishing rate; opening 7,000 locations in less than a decade (the fastest growth in history) - more than double the franchise expansion rate of McDonald's.
Amazingly, this franchise explosion was initially accomplished entirely by word of mouth. Curves' first national advertising was an award-winning campaign launched in 2003. The club now boasts over 4 million members internationally and close to 10,000 locations.
What does Curves offer that the others do not? A comfortable atmosphere with “no makeup, no men, and no mirrors," their unofficial motto. No wonder the manager I spoke with at the Charlotte, NC-South Curves location was so enthusiastic about their program. There are more than a dozen Curves locations in the Charlotte area.
Believe it or not, this article is not intended as a recommendation for Curves. As it happens, no other health club that fit the criteria was uncovered in the research for this article. It is also noteworthy that Curves is specifically for women. Sorry guys! Apparently, the perception is that overweight men are less intimidated in the typical health club environment. However, that perception did not appear as a conclusion in the studies considered.
Perhaps there is room for another fast growing health club franchise - one that caters to men? At any rate, the success of the health club that has found a niche in catering specifically to overweight individuals must surely give some credibility to the theory. After all, Curves does seem to focus on those who need it most and the data proves that it is paying off - for both the client and the franchise entrepreneurs.
Maybe one day the rest of the industry will fall in line and reap the obvious benefit of giving the customer what he, or she, wants. In the meantime, those with no health club membership can be creative. Start your own exercise group in your neighborhood or at work. Think outside the box. Possibilities are endless on the plus side of life.