Chris Rondeau, CEO of Planet Fitness

While people are slower to return to the gym, Planet Fitness is covering its bets by investing in iFit Health and Fitness, a home fitness technology company, as part of the company’s “bricks-with-clicks” strategy.

The Hampton-based fitness franchisor would not disclose how much of a minority stake it is acquiring or how much it paid for it when it announced the deal in its quarterly earnings release.

There, the company reported that first quarter sales were down more than 12% to $ 111.9 million, sales in the same store were down nearly 15%, and net income was down 40% to $ 6.2 million.

But it’s making money so far this year. For all of 2020, it lost $ 15 million.

Almost all of the company’s U.S. gyms are now open and membership is 40% of the prepandemic. However, more people returned in the first quarter.

“We believe the positive headlines about the availability of Covid-19 vaccines have seasonally shifted our membership development as membership growth surpassed March 2019 in March, reinforcing our belief that people are ready to get back into ours Gyms return, “said CEO Chris Rondeau in a call for earnings. He later added, “I think it’s pretty amazing that we’ll be back in four months.”

This is one of the reasons the company launched a lengthy marketing flash, with commercials of unfortunate people trying to exercise in their cramped homes in front of their mocking kids and the family dog ​​deciding to leave their mark on someone try to put your arm, do push-ups in the living room.

Another reason is “gaining market share,” Rondeau said, adding that “17% of the industry is currently closed and we want to be closer, that we are front and center,” Rondeau told investors.

A third reason is to counter the perception that gyms are unsafe, he said.

“The media tarnished the industry a little, I would say, and that’s how they got us to this corner of the gym. They are dirty and they are petri dishes last year,” said Rondeau.

He found that a franchise gym was closed even though franchise revenue increased overall in the first quarter, while equipment revenue decreased by two-thirds, but due to pandemic issues.

And the company continues to open stores – 22 last quarter, 75-100 stores are expected to open this year.

For those who still don’t want to hit the gym, Planet Fitness is now offering digital subscriptions to the PF + branded iFit app for $ 5.99 per month. This is less than the $ 10 monthly fee to use the gyms.

However, Rondeau emphasized that the app is not only an alternative to gyms, but also a way to get people into gyms.

“More than 30% of the PF + members joined the Planet Fitness locations after subscribing, thereby demonstrating our strategy of“ digital as a gateway to stationary business ”. That is a 20% increase in the fourth quarter. In addition, 65% of our subscribed members have visited our core stationary offers since subscribing, ”said Rondeau.