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Planet Fitness reaches record 16.6M members; other health clubs report strong numbers


Nov. 10—Those working out at Planet Fitness might notice more of a crowd these days, even months before those New Year’s resolutions.

Other gym chains and higher-end health clubs are seeing an increased interest in fitness.

Planet Fitness reported in its third quarter earnings statements it now has 16.6 million members — an all-time record for the company founded in 1992 in Dover. The company is now based in Hampton.

“We continue our steady recovery from the pandemic,” CEO Chris Rondeau said during an earnings conference call Tuesday. “Members’ trends remained strong in the quarter with joins back to historical pre-pandemic seasonality.”

The frequency at which members go to the gym have increased and the company is seeing fewer cancellations as compared with 2019. Gyms were forced to shut down for a period of time in 2020 as part of precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rondeau said 25% of health and fitness centers have closed due to the coronavirus. No corporate or franchise locations of Planet Fitness have permanently closed, he said.

Planet Fitness opened 29 locations in the third quarter, bringing the number to 2,353.

“We emerged even stronger with tremendous opportunities for future growth,” he said.

Michael Benton, CEO of Genavix Corp., a national chain for wellness solutions as well as the owner of three fitness centers in New Hampshire, including Executive Health & Sports Center in Manchester, also reported strong membership.

He said larger clubs with pools and other amenities and larger “high volume, low price” gyms are doing well. Some smaller, studio-style centers have a much slower recovery, he said.

“People just want more space,” Benton said, or they just want to use fitness equipment without classes.

The economy has not prompted people to seek better bargains.

“If you want to stay at a Ritz Carlton, you stay at Ritz Carlton because you want that experience,” he said. “If you want to stay at a Holiday Inn Express, you stay at a Holiday Inn Express because that is what you can afford. You understand what you buy when you get there.”

Executive Health & Sports Center has indoor and outdoor tennis courts and pools.

“It is a different market altogether,” he said. “A lot of our members do both.”

The Zoo Health Club — which has seven locations and four on the way in New Hampshire — is also seeing its highest number of members, according to franchise owner Ed Baroody. The franchise business operates in 11 states. The first three locations in the Granite State opened in 2019.

“It is a sharp contrast to what we experienced during the shutdown and days after,” he said. “It was kind of a slow rollout.”

A new location is set to open in Seabrook next week and another location in Hooksett will open next month at the Kmart plaza. The two other new locations have not been announced, but will be in Southern New Hampshire and the northern part of the Seacoast region.

Baroody has noticed steady growth in both membership and usage. With more flexible schedules, the locations aren’t seeing as many rushes, such as after work.

At-home exercise trends have declined, he said.

“People want to get out of their homes to work out,” he said.

Benton said those in the fitness industry will continue to offer programs online. Maybe opt to do a hybrid approach to working out, sometimes at home, sometimes at the gym.

“I don’t think we’ll ever move away from that. We offer it as part of the overall membership. We aren’t charging any more for it,” he said. “It gives fitness people a 24/7 experience.”

Planet Fitness is planning the first quarter of 2023 being the first “uninterrupted by COVID” in years.

The chain is working on programs targeted toward Gen Z with its high school pass program.

“We continue to market to them and believe that when they are ready to join a gym Planet Fitness will be top of mind,” Rondeau said.

jphelps@unionleader.com



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