Gyms closed, opens, closes again, opens with 2G or 2G plus, … The Corona pandemic not only throws members out of their training rhythm, but also poses major challenges for the industry. In an interview, McFit founder Rainer Schaller talks about the loss of members and the future of the fitness centers in the pandemic.
By Julien Wolff
The pandemic has hit the fitness industry in Germany hard. Rainer Schaller is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the fitness market. The 52-year-old founded RSG Group, which includes McFit. Recent government decisions again pose major challenges for study operators. In an interview, Schaller explains the problems in the industry and offers a prospect for 2022.
How was the pandemic-driven 2021 for the fitness industry?
Rainer Schaller: “The year 2021 has been a roller coaster ride for the entire fitness industry. We started the year with closed studios, but opened our outdoor gyms at select locations right from the start. Despite the shutdown, we were able to guarantee our members safe training in the fresh air. After about six months of closing our gyms for the second time in a row, we were finally allowed to reopen in the middle of the year. Shortly afterwards, we celebrated several openings – including the two Gold’s Gym flagships in Berlin and Milan as well as John Reed locations in Los Angeles, London and Rotterdam, thus conquering new markets with our brands, which we had had our eyes on for a long time. As the year draws to a close, our nerves are put to the test again and we stand again in a period of uncertainty. All studies in Austria are currently completely closed again and partly also in some federal states in Germany. It remains a challenge for us to take with us into 2022. ”
“Unfortunately, I have to expel some members
What does 2G or 2G plus mean for the studies?
sounder: “With the current 2G / 2G-plus regulation, only those who have been fully vaccinated or have become healthy – in some cases plus currently negative test evidence for 2G-plus – have access to our studies. As a result, we are unfortunately forced to to exclude some of our members who do not have 2G certification from regular study operations. “
What does this mean specifically for your group of companies?
sounder: “A 2G / 2G plus regulation means increased efforts in all areas, which we are happy to accept. We will neither risk the health of our members nor have to close more studies. But it also means for a certain group of our members that we can not give them access. ”
Are the measures justified and understandable?
sounder: “The health of our members and study staff is our top priority at all times and we will continue to actively adjust our protection and hygiene measures. This is the only way we can cope with the pandemic without having to close the study again, which is our biggest goal . “
The importance of fitness increased further during the pandemic
Are the studios empty now?
sounder: “Due to the current rules, our studios are emptier than before the pandemic, because the Corona rules, for example, require minimum distances to be complied with. In order to guarantee safety at all times, the permitted capacity of our studios has been reduced. members after sports and exercise.And everyone who right now has the opportunity to continue their exercise routine in our studies.The past year has shown that fitness is elemental to general health and an important basis for successfully overcoming disease.According to a recent study took 40 percent of those surveyed 5.6 kilos on during the pandemic – for me a very clear indicator of the important role that training plays.
Do you currently fear further redundancies on the part of members?
sounder: “Members who are unable or unwilling to train on site due to our new protection and hygiene concept have the opportunity to temporarily suspend their contract. The membership is thus suspended for a period and no subscriptions are payable. The big advantage is that after the break, all contractual relationships continue to run normally. In addition, we are currently working on various options so that we can also offer our members safe training outside the studio. ”
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“Between 15 and 20 percent loss of members
What do you think – when will normal study operations be possible again?
sounder: “Given the current circumstances, it is difficult to predict when we will return to normal. We have studios all over the world and the situation is different everywhere. Even within Germany, different rules apply due to the varying number of infections. Corona should probably be with us a little more, so we should focus on building a “normal” study operation using long-term protection and hygiene measures. The motto for all of us is and remains “safety first”.
How much loss has the pandemic caused in the fitness industry so far, can you put a number on it?
sounder: “The impact of the pandemic on the fitness industry will be felt for a long time to come, as the entire industry has been hit hard, and on average all gym operators have lost about 25 percent of their members. Many of our members have supported us in these difficult times, which we are very grateful for, and therefore we have had a little less – between 15 and 20 percent membership loss – that we have experienced during the closures.After the studies opened we were able to compensate for a large part of it and were on the right track.Now uncertainty and restrictions are again “For all the study owners and operators coming out of the crisis, it will therefore be a long-term achievement until they are back on a positive economic footing.”
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Rainer Schaller sees these fitness trends in the future
What will change in the fitness industry as we look forward to 2022? What new trends do you see?
sounder: “Since the pandemic began, the fitness industry has changed and people’s expectations have changed. A visit to the gym must be linked to an experience – the training is still in the foreground, but the equipment, the design, the music, the atmosphere, the community and the offerings in addition to training, becomes increasingly important and ensures that the member has an unforgettable time.In addition, many want to be flexible and more independent.Therefore, we introduced our flex contract after the first lockdown.This can be canceled monthly and gives our members maximum freedom. In addition, the demand for training opportunities from home or virtually is increasing. ”
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So has home training established itself? Or do most people prefer to train in the studio again?
sounder: “Home training has definitely gained traction over the last year and there are many new digital fitness formats on the market. We also adapted to this trend early on and have now significantly expanded the range of our Cyberobics app, which we launched in 2016. In addition to our on-demand offerings, we now offer around 150 live teams per week. A home workout is therefore a great addition, but will not be able to replace a fully equipped gym. Most of them do not have the equipment and space at home to replace extensive training in the gym. In addition, the atmosphere is lacking and above all: the community when training at home. These two aspects are given in our studies – depending on the brand in different forms – and are extremely appreciated by our members in everyday life ”.
This interview first appeared on WELT.