To help you start thinking through your reopening plan, we brought together a group of fitness and wellness experts in a panel discussion. Learn from their experience — and insights from ClassPass data — as they cover the following topics to help you figure out how to reopen your fitness studio:
- Current state of operations
- Reopening your fitness studio or gym
- Classes available after reopening
- Class capacity, schedules and pricing
- Studio safety
- Mike Huling – Owner & Founder, Reformation Fitness, Washington D.C.
- Ruben Belliard – Owner & Founder, The Training Lab, NYC
- D.J. Martin – Co-owner, Tangerine, NYC
- Cassie Piasecki – CEO, GritCycle, LA & SF
- Ari Karl – Owner & Co-Founder, KAMPS, Miami & Madison
Reopening Tips and Takeaways
- Be sure to check government guidelines about social distancing, masks and safety protocols to ensure your set-up meets the requirements.
- According to ClassPass users, the top three safety precautions a studio can take to make them feel safer when returning to in-studio classes are increased cleaning of equipment and spaces, having class outside and reduced class size.
- Be flexible. Reopening will be a learning experience, so take it day-by-day — start with a template and pivot as you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
- Try to offer variety. Some studios will be reopening with a limited capacity, so if you think digital offerings would work for your studio, try it out.
Watch the full webinar here:
Reopening Fitness Studios and Gym Webinar Transcript
Current State of Operations
Kinsey Livingston: First, we are going to look at studios across the US and their current state of operations. We surveyed several of our partners on ClassPass. We thought it would be helpful to share. We asked our partners, what are you doing during COVID-19? How are you operating? And what we found is that 72% of partners are still offering classes and the majority of them are offering livestream classes. There is a small subset who tried livestream and are no longer doing it.
There are about 30% of partners offering on-demand classes. I think this is an interesting one because often this takes a bit more video production work. The on-demand libraries are not as much livestream from the apartments of instructors and are more professionally produced videos. I think a lot of these were actually done pre-COVID, and then some people have started doing more personal training. About 12% of studios are not offering any classes during COVID-19, and that might be due to resources.
How are you currently running your operations for your businesses?
Cassie Piasecki, CEO, GritCycle, LA & SF: We dove right into livestream and on-demand, kind of thankful to ClassPass for spurring us on. We have six studios in Southern California and a brand new studio that opened in Northern California just in February. And ClassPass came to us just a couple of days after we had to shut down and said “Hey do you want to do livestream with us.” It snapped us to attention. It’s not anything we’ve ever done before. I am not just the CEO, I am also the camera operator, we just dove right in. It was sketchy. It was half put together. It was not good. Every day, we got better and better. Every week, we got better and better. We actually took the route of doing it in one of our studios, maintaining safety and social distancing with just myself and one instructor, but we nailed it, and it is now something that we are going to do forever.
Mike Huling, Owner & Founder, Reformation Fitness, Washington D.C.: We were late on the game. The first few of our livestreams were horrible. They were clunky. It is really different in terms of how you teach in front of the camera vs. how you teach in front of a class. You have to find your energy points a little bit differently, speak a little bit slower, cue things differently. if you haven’t tried it livestream, I recommend doing it, getting a feel for it. I do think it will be part of our program going forward, even after the shutdown, there’s just a lot of bells and whistles to figure it out, and each studio is different. I recommend trying it out if you haven’t already.
When should you reopen your studio and how?
Kinsey Livingston: 50% of partners will reopen their studio as soon as local government authorities allow. And 28% say they will reopen 1-2 weeks after they are able.When you reopen your studio, how are you thinking about reopening, and why?
Ruben Belliard, Owner & Founder, The Training Lab, NYC: We are going to open as soon as we can and soon as we are legally allowed to. It comes down to the model of the specific studio. Our studio is based on 12 people, not a huge, big amount of people in it because the class is very dynamic. At this point we are ready.
We configured our gym. We allotted 120 square feet for everybody. We have squat racks. We are ready to layout the gym. We’ve created 12 stations. Grab everything you need to do. Similar to what we were doing before we closed, this is a little bit more detailed and involved. This square footage works for all of the guidelines people have told us to date. It is hard because we want to deliver what we deliver. My big thing is that we don’t know until we are in it. I have to be in the trenches and figure things out as we go along. We have basic guidelines, but during this time, everybody has figured out that you have to be flexible. If you are not flexible, this is not going to work. We have a template, but we will pivot off of it.
My biggest concern is: how are people going to feel? Are people going to want to come in? We are having a town hall for the gym in a few weeks just to get feedback from people. I get emails every day from people saying “when do you think you are going to reopen” and I say “my guess is as good as yours.” It still makes sense financially, like hey we can do X, Y, and still meet the numbers and meet the guidelines from the state, and it still makes sense for us.
Ari Karl, Owner & Co-Founder, KAMPS, Miami & Madison: We are taking a more conservative approach. We are not opening anytime soon. Whatever the government says, we are not opening that day. We are going to be very careful. The health of our clientele and our staff is most important and similar to the way we were one of the first to close, I think we will be one of the last to reopen. A lot of our clients are not going to be too happy about that.
We’ve shifted our focus onto livestreaming and that is going to be our focus for the foreseeable future. I don’t think we know enough about how easy it is to contract the virus in a confined space. I know people probably don’t want me talking about the pandemic. I am not an epidemiologist. I do know that obviously, it depends on the studio, but we have treadmills that are close together and we have bench spots that are close together. Even every other, I would not feel comfortable right now. Until I feel comfortable taking a class myself, I will not reopen my studio.
D.J. Martin, Co-owner, Tangerine, NYC: We are located in NYC, the epicenter of this, so we are probably more in Ari’s camp. We are literally thinking about our reopening as if we were opening the studio on Day 1 like a brand new studio. So whereas we might have had 50+ classes a week, we might have to drop down to three classes a day, and maybe even cut our capacity in half. One of the things we’ve found over the years we’ve been open, we’ve been open five years, is that our revenue kept going up and up and up but so did our expenses. Let’s just take it all down and see if we can make the numbers work. It might even involve renegotiating with our landlord. We are really starting at a blank slate because we don’t know what the future is going to look like.
What classes will be available after reopening?
Kinsey Livingston: 83% of our partners plan to offer in-studio classes and 63% plan to offer livestream classes. So it sounds like a lot of you are planning to offer livestream. Share your strategy on what your plan is when you reopen.
Mike Huling, Owner & Founder, Reformation Fitness, Washington D.C.: We are going to do a mixture of livestreaming and in-studio classes. We are fortunate with the modalities we have, we can create a little more space within the studio. With that being said, we are going to take as many precautions as we can. We are going to limit the number of classes per day and the amount of time per class so that our cleaning staff has adequate time to do both preventative measures and really sanitize the spaces.
With livestreaming, we’ve heard from many of our members, they have kids, they are doing online school, or they are taking care of someone who is highly susceptible, and they don’t want to risk it. If you haven’t done livestreaming, think about it more long term. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Make sure it is part of your brand, if you are not a Peloton, don’t be a Peloton. When we reopen, we want to have a wide mix of offerings, and also some planned workouts on Instagram is a great way to get your feet wet. I recommend doing at least 2-3 verticals of revenue to connect with your community. They are going to be in different situations and you want to keep that connection alive.
Cassie Piasecki, CEO, GritCycle, LA & SF: We rented out all of our bikes. We have a giant waitlist. I am kind of proud of that. When it is time to reopen, we will reopen at 50% capacity. And we will only recall about 60% of our bikes from the renters and let about 40% hold on to them just for that same reason that there will be people home with their child or can’t come because they have a preexisting health condition or won’t feel comfortable coming back yet so we will continue to offer the bike rentals and the on-demand and the live classes. And once it is time to recall all of the bikes back, we will continue to build out our on-demand library and get better and better at the actual product we are putting out.
Class capacity and scheduling
Kinsey Livingston: 49% of partners will limit their capacity by 50%. Obviously that is dependent on how many spots you have available in your class and what equipment you have. 44% of partners plan to offer fewer classes per day while only 9% plan to offer more classes per day. How are you thinking about the number of classes offered per day for your studio(s)?
Cassie Piasecki, CEO, GritCycle, LA & SF: We are definitely going to take the approach of, well, if it is not clean, it is not going to happen. We know based on how our studios perform, some of our newer studios are on the quieter side, so we may open with fewer classes there. Our more popular studios that have big waitlists for every class, those are the studios that we will try to open up at full schedule.
We already have a nice chunk of time in between every class to clean and sanitize everything. What we would like to do is instead of lessening the amount of classes we have, we will increase the number of people on staff to get the additional cleaning and sanitation practices done. Like Mike said, we will be super flexible and super patient and if we have to change that after day 1, we will change it after day 1. Our hope is that in our busier studios, we will stick with that same schedule and in our quieter studios, we will have fewer classes per day. It will depend on the performance of our studios prior to closing.
D.J. Martin, Co-owner, Tangerine, NYC: I alluded to this before, our revenue kept going up and so did our expenses, and we got kind of bloated, so this is our opportunity to clean the slate and reduce overhead, maybe reduce revenue, but maybe not reduce profitability. We are trying to be very flexible. We can be iterative. We can start with three classes a day and if we see demand, but we want to proceed cautiously at first, especially out of respect for our students.
How should you price your classes after COVID-19?
Kinsey Livingston: Majority of partners plan on making no pricing changes or a temporary discount. How are you thinking about making changes to your on-premise classes and how are you thinking about the difference in pricing between livestream and in-studio?
Cassie Piasecki, CEO, GritCycle, LA & SF: We are going to keep our prices exactly the same. We do love to run the occasional flash sale, we will probably do something like that to welcome people back and that will be at a discounted rate. Our studio prices will stay the same and I think our on demand package is priced great and we will keep that the same as well.
Ari Karl, Owner & Co-Founder, KAMPS, Miami & Madison: I think we are going to take a bit of a different approach when we reopen. Just because of the economic hardships right now, I imagine that when we reopen, it is going to take some time to assimilate back to where we were and we want to meet our clients where they are at. Some people might be going through a difficult time right now. I imagine we will be discounting our pricing from the beginning when we do reopen.
In terms of the livestreaming, our approach was to really figure out during this time who the demographic is and adjust the rates accordingly. We are trying to figure out as much as possible about who they are, where they are from, their age, how they were affected by the pandemic. What we are also seeing is there a wider variation for our online audience than there is for our physical location. We are taking that into account for our livestreaming. Our livestreaming pricing will be significantly cheaper because we want to attract more of that audience and continue to have them as clients
ClassPass market comeback data
Kinsey Livingston: We did want to share some market comeback data. Internationally we’ve had two markets come back online.
Singapore was closed for a bit and studios started to reopen. We compiled that data, but this is obviously just one market. Upon reopening, top partners in Singapore decreased available spots by 32% due to capacity restrictions, but they also saw a 43% decrease in demand. We saw this as a double whammy. They had to reduce their spots due to government regulations but also saw this decrease in demand. Overall, their utilization on average was 49% pre-COVID and post-COVID it dropped to 41%. However, their sold out rates of classes increased. Pre-COVID they had about 4% of classes selling out and after that they had 8% due to that decreased capacity. To cope with that, 17% of studios increased their schedule availability. So maybe they decreased their class time from 50 minutes to 30 minutes, but they did this to allow more time for people to come to the studio and more time in between classes.
Majority of these partners had 9+ reservations per schedule before the restrictions were applied and they saw their utilization go from 45% to 71% and sold out rates go from 4% to 8%. Partners were able to capture up to 28% more reservations just from adding more schedules that would have otherwise been lost. I do think the obvious thing that people think is start slow, do as few classes as possible, but this is potentially a different approach that some people might be thinking about to see those incremental reservations come in and accommodate more of your clients. And then lastly revenue per reservation increased by 5% more per ClassPass reservation using Smart Tools.
ClassPass user data
Kinsey Livingston: So we surveyed about 1,100 users on ClassPass. When the economy reopens, 26% of users want to attend online classes, and 26% of users want to attend in-person classes. 54% of users reported they would consider the same price they paid before COVID to be a fair price in the month following the economy reopening. 30% think classes should be less expensive. This goes hand in hand with how many people in the US have lost their jobs, which is about 30%. 77% of users we surveyed had no change in employment status and 23% had an employment status change.
And 83% of the users we surveyed are spending less money now than before COVID-19. This is probably pretty obvious because people can’t go out to eat and spend money on retail. However, 60% of users plan to spend the same or money in the month immediately following the economy reopening. When the economy reopens 43% of users said they would spend the same amount, 33% said they would spend more or much more, and 24% said they would spend less.
And 46% of users said they would attend fewer classes in the first month following the economy reopening. Really important stat here and goes with the Singapore data that we saw a 46% decrease in demand.
81% of users said they would go to studios they’re familiar with in the month immediately following the economy reopening and 19% said they would try a studio they hadn’t been to before. And actually at the bottom, you can see that 24% said they would only go to their favorite studio. So 1 in 4 people would actually go to their one favorite go to place.
Users said the top three safety precautions that a studio can take that would make them feel more safe are increased cleaning of equipment & spaces, having class outside, and reduced class size. 52% of our users want to maintain 6+ feet of physical distance. Sounds like most people are doing this.
Kinsey Livingston: Lots of questions around requiring masks. Have you guys thought through that?
Mike Huling, Owner & Founder, Reformation Fitness, Washington D.C.: We are going to require it for the first few weeks at least. We know it might be challenging. We will see how it goes. We will also have different sized nitro gloves on hand for anyone who wants to be extra safe. For anything that doesn’t require sneakers, barre, yoga, pilates, we are requiring people to wear sticky socks or regular socks. Reducing skin contact on any of the surfaces. We are taking that very seriously.
Cassie Piasecki, CEO, GritCycle, LA & SF: We are going to go with the guidelines of the government. We will have all of our staff wearing masks and clear protective masks in front of that and any gloves for around the studio. As far as clients go, if they want to wear a mask, they can and should wear a mask. Unless the government says that everyone has to wear a mask, we will leave it voluntary for the client
Kinsey Livingston: Music licensing for livestreaming?
Mike Huling, Owner & Founder, Reformation Fitness, Washington D.C.: The one challenge we faced. We went to our providers and they gave us a link to fill out a survey. They really didn’t have their ducks in a row when we first went. I am hoping by now that they do. For us, it costs $288 for an annual license. For how often, it varies on how often you do it and usage, but I really recommend you do it if you are going to make livestreaming a permanent part of your revenue stream.
Cassie Piasecki, CEO, GritCycle, LA & SF: You have to make sure you are doing it properly with multiple music licensing organizations and really take a look at what you are doing on a global basis. We are learning a lot about music licensing and now sync licensing which needs to be had.
Mike Huling, Owner & Founder, Reformation Fitness, Washington D.C.: Most of the social media channels have relationships with the music providers already, but if you do Zoom, you definitely need the license. Reach out to whoever you work with. Different companies have different rights for different artists and food different albums but there are two main ones out there.
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