independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Gyms entice new members to sign up with luxury 'gifts'

weights
Gyms are offering gifts to new members

WIDE-SCREEN plasma TVs, iPods and luxury holiday vouchers are just some of the sweeteners gym owners are offering new customers as they try to cash in on New Year resolutions to battle the bulge in 2014.

The fitness world is also determined to capitalise on the new "feelgood factor'' in the economy.

Gym membership was one of the areas badly hit during the recession as discretionary income plummeted.

A nationwide survey showed that one in every seven members of a gym cancelled in 2007 as the downturn began to bite -- and this trend continued in following years.

But tentative signs of an economic upswing has led gym owners to offer a flurry of special offers, with many waiving 'signing up' fees completely.

Industry experts say sweeteners such as free 'signing up' gifts -- such as iPods or beauty treatments -- are becoming the norm and have provoked a renewed interest in potential gym-goers.

Paul Hodson, general manager of LA Fitness in Dartry, Dublin 6, said the gym runs a 'Get A Member' campaign where members can win a Samsung 32-in LED TV, and €350 in Amazon vouchers.

He said there has been a noticeable upturn in business over the past two months, and that the signs are good for next year too.

"We've given iPods as well. We have two treatment rooms here and we've offered discounted rates.

"Additional benefits we offer are member rates for our creche and swimming facilities. There's been a noticeable shift and people are willing to spend, but value for money remains paramount."

He added: "Members also get one-month guest passes for friends and family. They can also buy sports goods with a 25 per cent discount. And we offer a 10 per cent discount on nutritional products.

"Last year we were giving out holiday vouchers.

"Our standard club rate is now around €50 a month and we'll be reducing that come January to €44 depending on the contract length."

John O'Doherty, from Educo Gym in the Ashleigh Centre in Castleknock, West Dublin, admits "price is everything". He is confident about prospects for the enterprise in 2014 and says business has been brisk, with a recent spike in enquiries.

"We rarely get approaches in December for January, but that is the case at the moment so it is an early indication that things have turned a corner," he said. "There were obviously victims of the recession, but they're definitely back."

Ben Dunne, of Ben Dunne Gyms, also says value for money is key in order to lure potential clients.

A 13-month membership costs €189, while a six-month membership costs €150.

Mr Dunne told the Sunday Independent, "I think prices will continue to soften rather than harden. Value for money, the right product, and hygiene are crucial.''

He added that there was also an increasing demand for personal trainers.

Pete Lunn, ESRI behavioural economist, said consumer spending went off the cliff at the end of 2007, as people went for cheaper alternatives to gym or golf club membership.

But he says that he believes participation in sport and joining gyms is now back in vogue.

"Some gyms have now re-opened, having gone out of business after the economic crash. My feeling is there has been a pick-up in this area," Mr Lunn said.

"We're definitely seeing employment growth, and that is the only real indicator as to how the economy is going.

"If people are feeling more confident, which they are, then they'll splash out on things like this.

"There's no question that consumer confidence has risen and employment numbers have turned a corner."

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