Personal Training: Is it All it’s Cracked Up to Be?

July 2, 2014

By: Michael Scott Scudder
Founder/CEO of Fitness Business Council

1-2-1 Personal Training revenue growth is declining slowly. Presently, 1-2-1 PT revenue is growing in less than half of U.S. health clubs. Just three years ago, it approached “uptrend breakout status” of 60% of reporting facilities. Now it has moved into “near downtrend” territory and will take only two more quarters of present results to declare it a definite industry downtrend.

Small Group Training revenues are gradually rising. While second-half 2013 results negated what appeared to be a breakout into “definite uptrend” status for SGT, 1st Q ’14 stats showed SGT revenue growth in 54% of clubs. On a 5-year basis, SGT is on the rise as more and more clubs program SGT into their offerings.

More types of GEX classes are really Large Group Training. Full-body training GEX classes (think Les Mills Body Pump or MOSSA’s Group Power) are being integrated into an increasing number of clubs’ fitness programming. Clubs are beginning to grasp the effectiveness of large group training…both in payroll efficiency and “group satisfaction” for members.

Members don’t think what passes for “personal training” in clubs is really “personal” training. Clubs have milked “equipment demonstrations” as “introductory personal training” for years. Club customers know that it isn’t “personal” training…and likely will not buy real personal training, following this poor representation at the outset of membership.

Club members are going outside-of-club for their personal training needs. Increasing numbers of club members are opting to buy memberships in low-price fitness-only clubs…and put their personal training dollars into studio offerings…thereby not only decreasing membership numbers and dollars, but cutting into clubs’ profitable PT sales.

Quality trainers are leaving clubs to work in, or open, studios.  Thousands of facilities have had to cut back training session percentage payouts. With profit margins across the industry at more-than-a-decade lows, clubs need every dollar they can get. The result is that quality trainers have had their incomes reduced by clubs…so the trainers have moved on to studio employment or even ownership.

Statistical evidence shows that clubs are generally suffering member, trainer and dollar drain. As we see more facility competition coming into most markets, independent club operators will have to re-create their personal training programs…or risk losing even more revenues in the very near future.

What’s your “take” on personal training at this point? Email Michael with your opinions.

(Michael Scott Scudder is Founder/CEO of Fitness Business Council, the independent club business network. Michael can be contacted at 575-751-1212 or mss@fitnessbusinesscouncil.com .)