By William West Any business growing in this economic atmosphere is remarkable. A business that relies on consumers’ discretionary dollars – and still manages to grow – is even more unusual. Welcome to In-Shape Health Clubs.
This is the new re-landscaped and reconfigured exterior of the Quail Lakes In-Shape Health Club
The health club chain is headquartered in Stockton and stretches down the valley and over into the east bay with a total of 30 locations with their Lompoc opening November 1, 2008. What explains their growth? They aren’t the only health club chain. They haven’t discovered superior workout machines, although they offer the best. They have a lot of competition. They grow because they make the clubs an experience that draws you back. “We just spent $2 million updating our Quail Lake’s location on March Lane,” said Rob Farrens, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “We are always updating and reinvesting in our clubs.” The exterior of the club has been re-landscaped, re-painted, and slightly re-configured; once inside there is a dramatic change. Previously, one entered into a large rectangle with a standard ceiling. Now, the entire center portion of the ceiling has been removed, creating an open courtyard affect with more light and views of workout machines. “This place is now beautiful,” said member Steve Rosso as he walked by after a cardio machine workout. It is a stunning change. Further into the building one finds the pool area has been re-done as have the locker rooms. “Every year we do a walk-through of every club and decide what needs to be rebuilt or upgraded,” said Farrens. Paul Rothbard, one of the In-Shape’s owners, and Farrens, visited more than a dozen high-end health clubs in northern California to see how they compared. “Honestly, we were better than many of those clubs that cost triple what we charge,” Farrens said. “We have memberships that start at only $39 a month.” “Our rates are 20 percent to 40 percent lower than most of our competitors,” Farrens said. “Yet we have better facilities and more creative programs.”
Open inviting new interior at Quail Lakes
In-Shape plans to grow by three to five locations per year. During their growth, they will continually maintain or upgrade their existing locations. According to Farrens, this is beyond normal the industry practice and may be one reason they have a higher member retention rate than the industry as a whole. Average retention rate for clubs in an International Health and Racquet Sports Association survey is 73%. About a third of the 42 million Americans who exercise join fitness centers (a number that’s been flat for several years), according to American Sports Data. So, how does In-Shape continue to grow? It’s not just the physical quality of the clubs. There is a passion for helping people achieve a healthful life and an aggressive yet respectful drive to grow membership. “We are very pro-active in driving new membership and we also contact members who might drop out,” said Farrens. “Sometimes calling people who leave can give you the best idea of what might need to change. We have pretty good retention.” Making the club experience easy for families is fundamental to growth in today’s health full-service club market. “Families with kids love this club,” said Ryan Hayes, the Membership Manager for Quail Lakes who joined this reporter and Farrens for a conversation about the new-look club. “Our ‘Kids Club’ lets a mom or dad park the kids in a fun area with kid-friendly play area so they can go get their workout and not worry about them.”
In-Shape Kids Club is a place kids have fun while parents workout
When asked for the key to his success in the three years he’s been with In-Shape, Hayes immediately replied, “You have to love what you do. It really means something when see people feeling different about themselves because they come here and get proper and safe workouts.” “This place is really amazing,” said member Tom McHugh, stopping by to say hello after finishing his workout. “These guys have done an incredible job.” The remodel was done by Simile Construction, a Modesto company that has done many of the In-Shape projects. The architect was Rod Alonzo who has designed most of the In-Shape facilities for the past half dozen years. He runs Architecture Plus Incorporated, known as API, which is located in Modesto. He started the business and has been there for 25 years.
Rob Farrens, VP Sales and Marketing
In-Shape Health Clubs is ranked one of the top 20 health club companies in the United States and owns and operates 29 locations in California. Founded in 1981 with one club and a vision for helping people stay healthy and have fun, the company has exceeded expectations and is primed for growth. In-Shape owns five clubs in the Stockton area, one in Manteca, two in Tracy, and five in Modesto. The health club business has $18.5 billion in revenues, according to the IHRSA. There are 266,000 full-time employees that earn about $7.5 billion in salaries and benefits.
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