January 1st isn’t just the beginning of the calendar year, it represents an opportunity to make changes for the better. We may dream up the ideal new year’s resolutions in December, but January 1st is when we take the dream and begin making it a reality. But, we have all come face to face with the inevitable challenge of maintaining a resolution deep into the year.
While this may pose a problem in our pursuit of bettering ourselves, understanding how people engage with personal goals can highlight opportunities for brands to help us reach these goals. No industry copes with this challenge more than personal fitness. These brands ride the wave of resolutions to high visits in January only to watch the eagerness to keep fit taper off as the year goes on.
So when exactly do we lose our motivation and what takeaways can fitness brands leverage in order to keep us on the right track?
Gym Visits Peak in Q1
We analyzed four of the top fitness chains in the US - Planet Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness, and Equinox - from January 2017 to April 2019 to understand the peaks and valleys of customer attendance. Unsurprisingly, the first quarter dominated for overall visits indicating the strong motivation to kick off the year properly. The power of the New Year’s Resolution was in full effect during this period as chains witnessed a combined foot traffic increase of 35% between December 2017 and January 2018 and an equally impressive jump of 20% between December of 2018 and January 2019.
March Peak, No Summer Boost
All chains follow similar patterns, with traffic hitting its highest point each March, before witnessing a steady decline that lasted throughout the summer. Interestingly, both fitness chains saw minor rebounds in October before watching visits dwindle to their lowest numbers of the year in December.
The overall dissolution of the Q1 fitness excitement is clearly visible when comparing numbers over each quarter. All of the chains enjoy growth throughout Q1, with the quarter bringing in 19% more visits overall than Q4 in 2017 and 12% more overall visits than Q4 in 2018.
Interestingly, though marketing campaigns frequently target the summer as a deadline for feeling healthy and fit, visit trends see little improvement.
Club Pilates Cracking the Code
One brand that has managed to maintain and grow its visit base throughout the year is Club Pilates. While other fitness brands peak in March before seeing a downward trend, Club Pilates has enjoyed consistent growth throughout the measured period. While this certainly has a strong correlation with new store openings, there are also positive indications that their model has a built in antidote.
Club Pilates works primarily on a subscription model that provides access to a certain number of classes which may provide a greater incentive to attend. When looking at specific sites - as opposed to overall numbers that are more susceptible to the impact from new store openings - the same pattern holds true. Locations enjoy an initial jump following the property’s launch but maintain growth throughout the year without seeing a decrease along the lines of the patterns in standard fitness centers.
They are also more effective at drawing crowds that will visit a site during non-peak hours. For example, Club Pilates sees 54% of their visits between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm while LA Fitness and Equinox see only 38.5% and 39.6% of their visits during this time. The ability to attract a midday audience could speak to users that are more committed to maintaining a regular program throughout the year.
Key Brand Takeaways
One of the biggest challenges for any fitness brand is channeling users to sites and engaging with potential audiences throughout the year. While early year tactics effectively tap into New Year’s Resolution fervor, there are unique opportunities to drive attendance rates at other points of the year.
A brand like Club Pilates enjoys sustained growth based on a model that keeps attendees coming back and by targeting audiences that show a greater degree of willingness to maintain an ongoing fitness regimen throughout the year.
Standard fitness leaders may look to utilize marketing campaigns that specifically look to drive attendance during falling periods or to incentivize attendees to maintain their visits from March into April and beyond. In addition, further identifying the types of visitors that help populate midday classes for places like Club Pilates could help these businesses tap into audiences that show a greater willingness to see the year through.