The newly released Franchise Times Top 400 ranking illustrates in stark detail the impact COVID-19 pandemic shutdown orders, capacity limits and the behavior of cautious consumers had on fitness franchises in 2020.
Overall sales for the segment dropped to $5.8 billion last year. That’s a 23.8 percent decline as all but one of the gym brands suffered sales losses, according to the Top 400, which ranks the largest U.S.-based franchises by global systemwide sales. Devan Kline is CEO of the lone grower in fitness, Burn Boot Camp, and said his franchise “did literally everything we could” to keep members.
“We threw out all the rules and basically said, meet your members where they are,” said Kline. That meant live stream workouts, classes in parking lots and the creation of virtual platform Burn Boot Camp On Demand. “But honestly, our membership really stepped up,” he said of most locations only seeing a membership decline of about 15 percent.
Burn Boot Camp CEO Devan Kline says gym members were “impressed with the way we handled COVID,” which led to better member retention.
Burn Boot Camp posted $109 million in sales in 2020, up 12.2 percent compared to the year before, from 281 locations. That unit count total is up 16 percent for the North Carolina-based brand.
Burn Boot Camp, which Kline founded in 2012 with wife Morgan, had a plethora of digital workout content available before the pandemic, but “we weren’t monetizing the platform,” he said. The company created its on-demand offering as a supplement to in-gym workouts and it can also stand alone as a membership level, said Kline, though he emphasized Burn remains focused on its in-person studio fitness model as it grows.
“You need a community of people to push you,” he said. “That community fitness boom is still coming.”
Elsewhere in the segment, Crunch Fitness makes its Top 400 debut at No. 110 with $700 million in systemwide sales from 380 units. Ben Midgley is CEO of the big-box, low-cost gym franchise and said the company immediately expanded its Crunch Live digital offering, which before the pandemic was provided only to members at a higher-priced level.
“We ended up losing only 2 percent of our members, which was shocking. …There’s …….