In this Placer Bytes, we dive into the COVID recovery of two leading brands in their respective categories – Planet Fitness and AMC.
The COVID surge in January may have caused Planet Fitness to miss out on its seasonal January boost, but the fitness leader’s more recent visit data has once again disproved the skeptics. Since February, visits have been on the rise, with March visits coming in far ahead of pre-pandemic levels.
The brand did grow its physical footprint significantly over the past three years – from 1,742 locations in December 2019 to 2,254 locations in December 2022 – so some growth in visits is to be expected. Still, the fact that Yo3Y visits per venue are also positive means that every new location is attracting just as many visitors as the legacy Planet Fitness venues – indicating how strong the demand for fitness centers is today, and how well positioned Planet Fitness is to capitalize on this moment.
The brand has several advantages that are helping it stay on top of the sector. First, Planet Fitness – like other gym chains that weathered the pandemic – is now operating in a consolidated market. Numerous fitness centers permanently closed over the pandemic, and to the victors go the spoils – so consumers whose gyms shuttered are now joining the gyms that are still around.
Planet Fitness’ size and financial standing also meant that the brand could invest in marketing and consumer acquisition even as other fitness retailers were fighting for their survival. These efforts paid off, and the brand saw sequential net member growth each quarter of 2021. If the brand succeeds in holding on to these new members, the pandemic-branding efforts may well continue bringing long-term benefits to the chain.
Remarkably, the recent rise in gas prices and inflation does not seem to have dented Planet Fitness’ upwards trajectory, which may be due to the brand’s particularly affordable prices. As we’ve noted before, value-priced gyms are recovering much faster than the category average.
But Planet Fitness’ recent strength also speaks to the fact that today’s consumers are viewing gym memberships as essential expenses. The pandemic has forced us to recognize the importance of investing in our health. So, while the current economic uncertainty may be driving consumers to pinch pennies, gym memberships don’t seem to be on the savings chopping block.
AMC saw its foot traffic increase slowly, but consistently throughout 2021. But after seeing its smallest visit gap of the year in December 2021, thanks to the success of Spiderman: No Way Home, visits dipped again in early 2022. Still, there is some cause for optimism.
For most of 2021 (except for October and November), the monthly visit gap was at least 40% when compared to the equivalent months in 2019. But since the week of February 14th 2022, the Yo3Y visit gap remained smaller than 35% – indicating that despite the current economic challenges, movie theaters are continuing their slow but steady trajectory.
And, while the most recent foot traffic data for the week of April 18th certainly looks alarming, the 72.5% Yo3Y visit gap tells us more about what was happening three years ago than about the current state of movie theaters. The week of April 18th 2022 week is being compared to the week of April 22nd 2019, during which The Avengers: Endgame was released – a movie that broke opening weekend box office records in the US and around the world.
It’s also worth noting that already in 2019, and even before, various commentators were eulogizing movie theaters. Yes, the Avengers succeeded in breaking numerous records and bringing scores of movie goers back to the cinema. And, as streaming services begin to lose some of their luster and consumers increasingly look for in-person experiences – including movies in theater – there is every reason to think that AMC will continue its gradual and consistent recovery.
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