As the dust settles on a global pandemic, what will this resilient sector begin to look like?
Interview by Kieran McLoone, editor of Global Franchise
For Emre Ozgur, owner of fitness business consultancy EOC Fitness, the industry is about to become more exciting than ever.
The challenges of this past year have really put some brands to the test, but Ozgur, who has hands-on experience at huge names like 24 Hour Fitness and UFC Gym, believes that the best is yet to come.
KM: What do you think some of the silver linings of the pandemic have been?
EO: COVID-19 fast-forwarded the industry. It forced people to think a different way, in terms of bringing fitness to homes. We knew it was getting there, but it brought it faster.
The industry was horrible online before the pandemic, and it still is, but it’s getting better much faster. But gyms are never going to go away. People love community and going somewhere inspiring.
If you’re in the industry, you better pivot and understand that today’s fitness will not look like tomorrow’s. I am a gym guy, and I always will be. But traditional gyms aren’t going to look the same five years from now. If you think that, you’ll be stuck in a Blockbuster and Kodak world. Make sure that you evolve with what’s happening.
KM: Where do you see the industry going in five to 10 years?
EO: There’ll always be big-box, boutique, home, online. But it’s going to continue to evolve. When you think about big-box, a big trend is low-cost gyms. But how do they stay low-cost? You pack a ton of people into the gym and spend as little as possible on operations. Do we think we can continue to do that?
You’re going to have to service your clients better, and put in more work for your service standards.
Think of online: anybody and everybody created an online platform a year ago because of the pandemic. But how bored did people get? They stopped doing it. There are platforms out there with 500,000 members, but there’s five or 10 people on their online workouts.
“I compare the fitness industry right now with what happened with Bitcoin”
The future is still yet to be seen. There are going to be hybrid options and better home options. There are going to be boutiques that come out, and in the near future, somebody’s going to come out with something and we’ll all say, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’
KM: Why do you think fitness remains an attractive industry to enter?
EO: The fitness industry is fairly new. I became a trainer in 1998 and it was a natural transition for me. My network of family and friends weren’t traditional gym-goers. The percentage of the population that went to the gym at that time may have been 10 to 15 per cent, for argument’s sake. That’s now up to 30 or 35 per cent in some places. I was a first-generation gymgoer.
My kids see me going to the gym, so they’re going to be second-generation. They know that part of life is exercise and eating right. That 30 per cent is going to continue to grow, where eventually, the majority of the population is doing some kind of fitness routine.
I compare the fitness industry right now with what happened with Bitcoin. If I could go back and invest in Bitcoin years ago, I’d put all of my money into it. I think it’s the same with fitness. Although it’s changing and evolving, the fitness industry will always be here. It’s just going to look a little different.
Emre Ozgur’s five essential self-reflections that fitness franchisees need to make
1) Do you have a passion for fitness?
“There will be tough times, and your passion will get you through those times. If not, then you’re going to struggle.”
2) Do you love interacting with people?
“This is a service job. You will service customers, and more importantly, service your team members.”
3) Do you like sales?
“Not the high-pressure sales, but motivating people to see the value in investing their hard-earned money into improving their fitness and lives. If you don’t like hearing ‘no’, then find something else.”
4) Get with the times
“Marketing is evolving faster than ever. You need to either learn digital marketing or hire somebody who’s great at it to help you with it.”
5) Find a brand you believe in
“There’s so many franchise options out there, and you don’t necessarily need to go with the most popular, the cheapest, or the most expensive. Go with a brand that really speaks to you. At the end of the day, the uniform you’re wearing is one you’ll be bleeding, sweating, and tearing in. You need to believe in it.”