Gym Business Models Depend On You Being Too Lazy To Work Out

Image courtesy of (Michelle)

Generally, there are two different kinds of gyms: the kind that actually expect their members to show up regularly and work out, and the kind that depend on most of their members to not show up on a regular basis. How do you get someone comfortable enough with a gym to pay up, even if they’re too busy or too lazy to show up? Sounds weird, but that’s their entire business model.

NPR’s Planet Money lays it all out for us. The first trick is to recruit prospective members who wouldn’t consider joining a gym normally, but who can picture themselves visiting all the time. Some of these people might become fitness fans and daily visitors, but the business model couldn’t handle it if they all did. The Planet Money team visited a Manhattan Planet Fitness, for example, that has space for maybe 300 people to work out at, say, 5:30 PM on January 3rd. However, they have 6,000 dues-paying members.

This turns out to be a great deal for any members who like to work out frequently, and also not a bad deal for members who just like having a gym keytag and the ability to say that they belong to a gym. It’s there if they want to use it. Maybe tomorrow, or next week, but they’re definitely too busy today.

Episode 590: The Planet Money Workout [NPR]