Rory McGown is the founder of the award winning GYMetrix who are credited with transforming the industry’s approach to kit selection and floor layout. By tracking the usage of each piece of kit, GYMetrix ensure that operators make decisions based on what members really want rather than what they assume members want. Their clients include the largest brands in the market, such as Pure Gym, The Gym Group, David Lloyd and Everyone Active, all of whom they’ve helped to achieve huge savings while driving up customer satisfaction and retention.
We met Rory to learn where the data suggests gyms are going wrong and what they need to start doing differently.
You have now tracked equipment usage in nearly 400 UK gyms. What have been the most common mistakes this data has told you about how gyms select their equipment and plan their layouts?
It’s been absolutely fascinating. There are so many mistakes that every gym makes and consequently they spend vast amount more than required, while damaging their relationships with members in the process. These are the most common pitfalls:
1. They think they can accurately predict demand
In absence of a measurement system, everyone things they’re better than average. When asked, gym owners generally believe around 20-40% of gyms get the kit mix of broadly correct, and of course they assume that they are in that 20-40%. It’s actually zero. Nobody yet has come close to getting it right without data.
2. They rely on suppliers to tell them what kit to stock.
Suppliers don’t know what kit members want. Only members know what kit they want. The kit supplied should be determined by the kit demanded, but instead they depend on the guesswork of people who are commissioned on selling the most valuable items!
3. They underestimate the customer dissatisfaction caused by equipment shortages.
If more operators trained in peak periods then they might start to appreciate how bad it can get, and how much equipment shortages destroy customer gym experience.
4. They overestimate the number of women on the gym floor.
Many gyms have more females than males as members and operators allow that fact to dictate the distribution of kit on the gym floor. However, many of these women will join the gym primarily to attend classes. In fact, at peak times the gym floor is 2:1 male to female! It’s a real paradigm shift which the industry is yet to catch up with and consequently these men are heavily under catered for.
What’s more, those women that are on the gym floor during peak times are increasingly wanting to use free weights, however these sections are too small and as a result females are being ‘crowded out’ of these areas by males.
5. They believe that people adjust their workouts based on what kit is available
Not true, they just get frustrated by not being able to get on kit they want, and simply do not use the kit they don’t want to use.
6. They believe there’s a perfect ratio of gym kit that can be applied to any gym.
Every gym is different. The demand for each piece of kit will depend on members, instructors, available kit, copying other members, etc, and the layout of the gym floor. This is what we call the gym ecosystem and when you look at the infinite possible variations and how they interplay, it is effectively impossible to get the design right without data. Really similar gyms in similar locations can have totally different demand patterns.
7. They buy expensive functional kit and expect it to get used.
It won’t, at least not without significant investment in educating the members. Most people already have their workout and are reluctant to try new pieces of kit without encouragement and direction.
8. They think that it’s all about customer contact.
The primary value driver is to use available equipment – that’s what they’re there for. Operators need to realise that they are selling ‘time share of equipment’ as the primary service, and if they fall short on that then nothing else matters. Yes, personal service and other frills can aid retention, but they are all secondary behind access to equipment.
9. When they get complaints about a lack of kit, they assume the answer is to expand the gym.
More often than not the gym is already big enough, but it’s just has way too much of some kit and not enough of others. By losing the kit that’s not being used they can usually free up plenty of space for the kit that’s in under-supply.
10. They think that women don’t want to be near men in the gym.
Not true. They just don’t want to be stared at.
The person with the view is the person with the power. Operators need to position the cardio kit looking over the free weight section. Give women the view and ensure they are always facing the men. We’ve seen powerplate users increase by 30% just by turning them around. As long as people have their backs to others they feel vulnerable.
11. They have far too much cardio kit and a lack of free weights
For most gyms this is the single biggest issue; too much cardio kit. We see the biggest over supply among:
3 Upright cycles
And these are also the most expensive pieces of kit! Meanwhile, there is usually a big shortage of the cheap stuff:
• Benches and dumbbells
• Stretching matts
In particular there’s usually a lack of 8-18kg dumbbells. These are the most popular pieces of kit in the gyms and a tiny investment, so there is no excuse for not having multiple sets for customers.
12. They place all the free weights in one area.
By placing all the weights in one place they create a testosterone packed section of serious weightlifters. Naturally this can be intimidating to women as well as to many of the less frequent male users. They need to split free weights areas up around the gym with spaces for light and medium weights as well, and if you’re going to have dumbells of over 40 kg’s then ensure they’re housed at the far end of the gym with resistance equipment as a buffer.
13. They allow the individuals to ruin it for the masses
They think that if they ban one member for bad etiquette (such as repeated failure to put weights back in the right place) they’ll upset people. Wrong, they’ll upset one person, while hundreds of others will be grateful. Poor gym etiquette is a huge source of frustration for members.