Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

February 2017

Gym-Goers Like YMCA Best; Planet Fitness Winning Market Share

A new study from Market Force Information found that consumers prefer their local YMCA or YWCA over all other national gym chains, and many gym-goers are planning to switch gyms in the next three months.

More than 2,700 consumers who reported having gym memberships with national brands participated in the fitness section of the study, which examined consumer preferences and trends related to workouts and fitness centers. In addition to examining fitness facility preferences, the study also asked about preferred brands of cosmetics and department stores.

The study revealed that Planet Fitness is winning the most market share, with 27 percent of participants holding memberships there, followed by YMCA/YWCA and LA Fitness. However, one in four is dissatisfied with the gym they've chosen, and one in 10 is likely to change gyms in the next 90 days. YMCA/YWCA customers are the least likely to switch, which is not surprising considering it is consumers' favorite fitness center.

(Editor's Note: It is important to note the YMCAs and YWCAs have a completely different operating platform from commercial fitness facilities, operating as nonprofits vs. the for-profit nature of commercial fitness. This puts them on an uneven playing ground, in terms of competition.)

When Market Force evaluated fitness centers based on consumers' satisfaction and their likelihood to recommend the center to others, YMCA/YWCA ranked first with 51 percent, followed by Planet Fitness with 47 percent, Anytime Fitness with 43 percent and 24 Hour Fitness with 35 percent. LA Fitness and Gold's Gym tied for fifth with 32 percent.

The survey also ranked the top fitness centers by amenities, and YMCA/YWCA led in nine out of 12, including fitness classes, quality of weightlifting equipment, swimming pools, and basketball courts. Planet Fitness took the top spots in the value and aerobic equipment categories, while Gold's Gym ranked first for its aquatic classes, and LA Fitness for its racquetball courts.

What once were mandatory contracts seem to be going by the wayside. The study revealed 48 percent have gym memberships with a contract, compared with 52 percent who have one without. Virtually no one reported paying per visit or using a punch card. While nearly two-thirds of those studied say they hit the gym at least weekly, one-third only visit a few times per month, at best. Some 29 percent said they visit their gym three to four times per week.

While many gym-goers have tried working out with a personal trainer, not all were thrilled with the experience. Some 31 percent of those studied said they've worked out with a trainer at their gym at least once, but just 39 percent of those were very satisfied by their progress. YMCA/YWCA and Anytime Fitness personal trainers received the highest approval of all the national brands studied.

The survey was conducted online in November 2016 across the United States, with 2,782 participating in the fitness center study. The survey pool covered all four U.S. Census regions, as well as a broad spectrum of income levels, and respondents' ages ranged from 18 to 65 and older.

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