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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

Fitness Clubs Get Less Intimidating to Lure Customers

Fitness Clubs Get Less Intimidating to Lure Customers RETAIL by Senior Reporter Shelly Garcia Chew on this: About 85 percent of Americans say it’s important to get enough exercise, and two out of three of those very same folks are overweight, even obese. The conundrum, it turns out, is also a marketing opportunity, at least for those who think they’ve figured out what happens between knowing what’s good for you and actually doing it. It also goes a way to explaining why new fitness operations are opening faster than the industry is growing. One of the latest is Cuts Fitness for Men, a franchise operation out of Clark, N.J. that opened its first West Coast club in Northridge late last year. Cuts is modeled on another fitness club, Curves International, which caters to women with a 30-minute circuit workout. Hugely successful, Curves, which also franchises its clubs, has grown to 7,000 locations since it opened in 1995, and nearly every Valley community has one. Cuts, located in the Northridge Promenade at 19520 Nordhoff St., also offers a 30-minute circuit workout, a combination of cardiovascular and muscle strengthening exercises performed in succession. Members start at any open station along the circuit, so there’s no waiting, and they are prompted to move to the next station every 40 seconds by a public address system. The workout requires no prior experience and there’s little risk of injury with weights that are too heavy or improper form. One look at the advertising Cuts has been doing, and it’s easy to see who the target market is. The ads feature owner Jeff Jarred, owner of the Northridge franchise who tipped the scale at 334 pounds when he opened the club in November and now weighs 291 pounds, in before and after pictures. An admirable accomplishment, but certainly not the Adonis-with-a-six-pack model that many traditional clubs rely on to lure new members. “A lot of men are intimidated by a conventional gym,” said Jarred. “They may not be athletic, they may be overweight, they may be intimidated by young guys who are in great shape at conventional gyms. It’s really for the guy that is just not going to go to the conventional gym.” Jarred, who is also an owner in a family metal fabrication business, Fenders ‘n More, in Pacoima, decided to open Cuts as part of a decision to get himself into better shape. He looked into the franchise after his wife joined a Curves gym and stuck with the program. The franchise fee is about $25,000, which includes the startup equipment, and Jarred figures he pumped another $30,000 to $50,000 in for audio-visual equipment, computers, furniture and the build-out. Those 55 and older have driven the growth in health clubs over the last five years, accounting for membership increases of about 41 percent, compared to a 23 percent increase in membership overall, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, a trade group in Boston. To appeal to those older members clubs are boosting their offerings in activities such as yoga, Pilates and other less physically demanding exercises. “Yoga has really exploded and Pilates the same, said Brooke MacInnis, a spokesperson for IHRSA. “Classes like that are low impact you’re not going to dislocate anything so it’s certainly appealing to that age group.” While companies like Cuts do not specifically target older members, they do attract the demographic because of the nature of the program. Tom Marshall, who has been going to Cuts four or five times a week since he joined in December, is one example. The 62 year old said he and his wife had previously tried traditional fitness clubs and failed to go regularly. And they bought home equipment, a machine Marshall now refers to as “the stare-master” because all they do is stare at it. Marshall’s wife then joined Curves, and lost about 40 pounds. When she saw an article about what seemed like the men’s version, she passed it along to her husband. “l just want to keep myself in shape so I can do things,” said Marshall, who said he used to hike regularly until he moved to Northridge. “My cholesterol is high, but it’s coming down. I haven’t lost much weight, but I feel much fitter. And I went to the doctor and did the treadmill and they were happy with it.” Albertsons Expands Albertsons is set to roll out a new store-within-a-store concept in all its Los Angeles area stores, and the company is about to test yet another such concept in several as-yet undetermined L.A. stores. The second-largest food and drug retailer in the nation is now installing Toys ‘R’ Us departments in its Savon stores after a successful test run that included Burbank, Encino and Sherman Oaks units. In coming months, the company will begin a test of Office Depot departments in its L.A. stores. “It’s just a partnership for the trial while we’re doing the test,” said Karen Ramos, a spokeswoman for Albertsons. “Then we’ll evaluate after the test is completed. Albertsons will test the Office Depot concept in about 18 stores in three markets, L.A., Chicago and Phoenix. The Phoenix stores have already been set up and the company expects to decide which L.A. stores will carry the department in coming months. The Office Depot store-within-a-store will carry about 700 products, focusing on the home office market. “We have tended to concentrate on more school supplies and stationery,” Ramos said. “But Office Depot had this fabulous expertise in selling office supplies and technology like printer cartridges that we’ve never done.” The company has previously set up partnerships with other food marketers including Krispy Kreme and Starbucks. Wal-Mart has made significant inroads expanding its general merchandise stores into the food arena. Although Albertsons officials say the recent moves are unrelated to Wal-Mart’s expansion, they do concede that enhancing their grocery offerings makes good business sense. “We’re able to offer our customers a product selection they’ve never seen here, and save them a shopping trip elsewhere,” Ramos said. This is an occasional column by Senior Reporter Shelly Garcia. She can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or at sgarcia@sfvbj.com

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