• Planet Fitness stayed afloat during the pandemic and avoided a single permanent closure in its 2,000 national locations.
  • CEO Chris Rondeau said this was partly due to the increased focus on digital technology, including a new subscription workout service.
  • “COVID fatigue is real. People come out and join, and they are not canceling at elevated levels right now,” Rondeau said.
  • You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.

Chris Rondeau, CEO of Planet Fitness, believes the US is heading for a post-pandemic fitness boom “like we have never seen before”.

While competitors like Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness moved from temporarily closed locations to ultimately turn off the light for good In 2020, Planet Fitness managed to stay afloat without a single permanent closure at its 2,000 national locations.

However, the pandemic has caused significant damage to the chain. Planet Fitness lost an estimated 1 million of its 14 million members in the second half of 2020. Rondeau said these members are now steadily returning and that 90% of Planet Fitness locations are open to the public today. Most of the locations currently closed are in California.

“COVID fatigue is real,” Rondeau told Insider. “People are coming out and joining, and they’re not quitting at an elevated level right now. I’m pretty confident that we will start adding members here in the first quarter and growing a large portion of our business. I. I’m excited me to leave the last year behind. “

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While the company’s size and cost-effective business model helped weather the storm, Rondeau’s success can also be attributed to a strategic focus in increasing digital content for members on its mobile app and website.

While Planet Fitness has already offered hundreds of free basic workouts for its app, it recently released a beta version of a premium subscription service called PF +, which is designed to serve as both an alternative source of income and a way to enroll new members in its gyms . For $ 5.99, users can access higher quality videos developed in partnership with Icon Health & Fitness, a maker that makes machines for companies like Nordic Track and Freemotion Fitness.

Planet Fitness’s enhanced digital initiatives extend to the operation of its physical locations during the pandemic. For example, the company recently added a “crowd meter” tool that allows members to see how well a gym is full by checking in for members in real time. With Planet Fitness currently enforcing occupancy restrictions based on state guidelines, the feature aims to prevent members from queuing outside, especially during the cold winter months.

“Before you go out, you can see the club’s occupancy so you can pick a time when you’re more comfortable,” said Rondeau.

Planet Fitness Mask Coronavirus Pandemic

A woman works out at Planet Fitness.

Courtesy Planet Fitness

Digital fitness as the “gateway to bricks and mortar”

Though Rondeau believes there was a final one Shift towards fitness at home During the pandemic, he said it was “nothing new” and compared the trend to the VHS and DVD fitness fashions of the 90s and early 2000s.

“The home fitness trend – whether it’s buying equipment for your home or just exercising at home – makes a lot of sense in theory and has always been around,” he said. “I always say it’s been around since Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda, since Billy Banks with Taebo and then P90X with DVDs.”

Despite the The buzz about digital fitnessRondeau views virtual fitness less as a replacement for gym workouts than as a complement that is increasingly being used as a “gateway to bricks and mortar” at Planet Fitness, he said. According to Rondeau, 20% of Planet Fitness early digital subscribers have switched to stationary memberships for PF +. Planet Gym membership ranges from $ 10 for monthly access to a single gym to $ 22.99 for exercise at all gyms across the country.

“It’s a great addition to your gym experience, but you will never have the quality or variety to go to the gym and community and the energy to be with other people,” he said.

Although the digital fitness market is increasingly crowdedAccording to Rondeau, Planet Fitness is creating a niche by offering PF + content specially designed for those new to fitness. According to the company, an estimated 40% of its members had never had a gym membership before joining.

As a result, Rondeau believes Planet Fitness can fill a void and “disrupt the digital world” by mirroring its physical gym strategy of “being inexpensive and actually feeding people who are just getting fit”.

“Most of the content you pay for is really about getting fitter,” he said. “In the brick and mortar world, there’s the Orange Theories, the F45, and the SoulCycles, and they’re all great exercises, but for the most part they’re too extreme for beginners. Our content is geared towards the casual gamer. Time gym member and most of the content out there isn’t like that. “

Rondeau believes that the number of athletes at Planet Fitness will continue to grow in the future as more Americans get vaccinated and become more focused on their personal health.

“Only 20% of the US population even have a gym membership. That’s it. That’s the problem. If 80% had a gym membership, the country might not be here with all these deaths,” Rondeau told Insider. “I think when you get out of that, people will feel a sense of appreciation for fitness and wellness and will take care of themselves.”