International Journal of

Business & Management Studies

ISSN 2694-1430 (Print), ISSN 2694-1449 (Online)
CUSTOMER RETENTION IN OWNER-OPERATED GYMS IN TIMES OF CORONA

Abstract


Despite having a membership rate higher than soccer, German fitness studios are suffering badly from the pandemic. Sales in the fitness industry fell drastically in 2020. The decline in sales poses major problems, especially for owner-operated fitness studios, which account for about half of fitness facilities in Germany.

While fitness chains, forced to draw on financial reserves, were able to slightly increase the number of their studios despite the pandemic, more than one in 100 individual studio owners had to close their doors permanently because of financial difficulties. The corona pandemic is suddenly turning a once-thriving market environment into a difficult terrain in which gym operators must fight to retain members.

But what do these efforts look like? How can customers be retained at a gym and how can cancellations be avoided in times of crisis? The influence from the corona pandemic on customer retention, especially in the severely affected individual studios, represent and raise an interesting and currently relevant field of research.

By evaluating an interview with an owner of two individual gyms, it can be shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has a negative impact on customer loyalty and on membership numbers. To counteract this loss of members, owners learned that being present, open and comprehensive communication and personal loyalty are particularly important. Social media also became increasingly important as a communication channel due to the temporary lack of possibility for face-to-face communication. Alternative forms of training, such as online courses, are an effective means of customer retention during the pandemic. Although these options are likely to continually be offered, they will be significantly reduced after the pandemic.