Five Days In Europe: The Fitness Industry Is Alive And Well Across The Globe

Yes that is me in a coffee shop in Amsterdam and no not one of THOSE Coffee Shops ;) . I love coffee and was in that business for six years running a chain of cafes and a full roasting operation. So heading to Amsterdam I always enjoy some great espresso, after all Amsterdam is where coffee was spread around the world from in the 17th and 18th centuries. But that's not why I went this time. It was for a more interesting reason.

When one of the biggest players in the global fitness business invites you to come along to Europe and lend a hand, well who's to say no ? Getting to meet executives from some of the leading clubs chains in the UK and EU in general as well as distributors for Star Trac in the EU, Middle East and Africa is a wonderful learning experience. The information gleaned tells you something about where the bricks and mortar fitness business is heading from a global perspective. That helps me keep a perspective on trends and enables us to serve our customers at Fitmarc, Integerus and Fitsomo even better. More than anything seeing the turnaround at Star Trac continue through the eyes of its owner, Michael Bruno, as I have over the past few years, continues to be a motivating experience. There is no one I've met or known, save a handful of people including my partner and friend Robert Dyer and my wife Maureen O'Rourke, who are as committed to success and the customer as Michael Bruno. That he invites me to contribute to his global business is an honor I relish.

What's On The Mind Of Club Owners and Operators

In the interest of confidentiality, I can't disclose who we met with exactly, but what I learned was that many clubs are focusing on i) elevating their group fitness and in particular indoor cycling studios and classes and ii) focusing on small group training. Sounds like the US a bit doesn't it ? There is also keen interest in alternative cardio, particularly around Star Trac's approaching launch of the Commercial Treadclimber, which is likely to be a significant home run for the Star Trac brand. As with most mature markets, the UK market is going through the bifurcation trend of consumers, with budget and niche studios taking larger share. This only serves to reemphasize the need for smart competitors to get very focused on their core business models.

In 2010 IHRSA's Alison O'Kane has this to say about the European market in the Reuter's article Tighter Belts Shape Health Club Industry:

"Clubs doing well in Europe and the United States are either high end or budget clubs, because people want to cut back while still keeping gym memberships," said IHRSA spokesperson Alison O'Kane. "It's squeezing the middle market a lot...."Europe and the United States are the most advanced markets, so the trends will start there," O'Kane said. "There are more clubs open in Europe but America has more club members on average."

According to the European Health and Fitness Associations Annual Report the EU marketplace generates 22 Million Euros in annual revenues with 40,000 public and private facilities that serve 44 million members. This is of comparable size to the US market. Despite recent economic struggles things are looking up. There is a lot we can learn by paying attention to the European marketplace.

What do you think about the health club industry in Europe ? Do you see a similar focus on group fitness and small group training in the states ? I think there are many similarities and some differences but I'd love to hear your point of view.

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He works for Fitmarc, which delivers Les Mills programs to over 700 facilities in the US. He advises successful global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank and serves as CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. To learn more contact Bryan here today .

Club Industry 2012 - A Great Industry Event In Vegas

Club Industry 2012 was another great event in the health club industry. While the move from its traditional Chicago base surprised some, I frankly found the event venue to be fantastic. It certainly was for Michael Bruno and several of his global brands, including Star Trac, Stairmaster and Schwinn. Mr. Bruno was very happy in particular about Star Trac winning Club Industry's Best of the Best awards for his E-TRxe Treadmill. He was also excited about displaying the soon to be released commercial TreadClimber . I'm hearing there is a lot more to come from this industry visionary.

During a Thursday evening dinner at Cafe Chloe, owned and operated by Michael Bruno's long time friend Chef Piero Broglia (the chef was Sinatra's favorite chef in Las Vegas by the way) Michael played host to a list of industry leaders and celebrities. David Patchell-Evans, ("Patch" as many friends call him) CEO and founder of Good Life Fitness was there, among many other health club industry titans. Retired lightweight champion Ray Boom Boom Mancini was also in attendance. By the way, if you like Italian food check out Cafe Chloe next time your in Vegas; and thanks Michael and Lin Quing for being such wonderful hosts and industry leaders.

So what did you think about the Club Industry show this year ? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

 About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He advises several successful global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank and serves as CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. To learn more contact Bryan here today .


The 2011 Club Industry Show In Chicago - A Few Highlights

A lot went on at Club industry this year. Perhaps you read my prior post regarding the roundtable conducted by Michael Scott Scudder on what is happening in the fitness industry, if not check it out here. There were other interesting developments at the show so I thought I'd share a few highlights.

First, kudos to my friend and colleague David Wright for his MYZONE concept. MYZONE is a unique solution that I think a lot of club owners should check out. When I talk about the health club business needing to deliver member service both inside and outside the four walls and on a 24/7 basis, solutions like MYZONE represent what I am referring to. I was also glad to see Mike Leveque, who I was able to work with at Star Trac, involved with this company. Learn more about MYZONE here.

Second, it is always a delight to see someone you respect so much at a show like Club Industry and that certainly applies to my colleague Denise Lee Yohn. I follow her writing and views closely. Marketing and branding are changing for a lot of reasons, therefore I enjoyed seeing her presentation on how customer experience is marketing. Check out Denise's videos here to learn more. Operationalizing brands is an important concept more health clubs need to understand and embrace.

Third, Cary Wing's presentation on physician referral programs was a great one (to learn more visit Cary's web site ). Medically integrated fitness centers are an important and interesting trend and so are physician referrals . I also really enjoyed spending time with Star Trac owner Michael Bruno. Star Trac's turnaround is certainly underway and a slew of new customers and new products is moving that company forward ! We had a great dinner and I loved spending time with Michael, my friend Sal Pellegrino and others from the Star Trac team. Many thanks to all of you, including my partner and friend Robert Dyer, for making this years Club Industry a great one.

So tell me Bryan O'Rourke, were you able to attend Club Industry this year ? What do you think about it being relocated to Las Vegas in 2012 ? What things did you discover at Club Industry this year ? I look forward to hearing from you !

About the author Bryan O’Rourke:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness and health club business service companies. He is also a partner in The Health Club For Women and Chairman of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee. To learn more contact Bryan here today .

Interviewed By Jim McPartland - What Are Your Unopened Gifts ? Watch

I met Jim McPartland at IHRSA in 2010. He was a facilitator and consultant to Les Mills International and its founder Phillip Mills at the time. Little did I know he'd be interviewing me on his show just over a year later.

Jim struck me with his manner and curiosity; in a good way. Ironically, not long after meeting Jim, I would be working with Michael Bruno, who purchased Star Trac, an organization that Jim McPartland transformed over 16 years as a Shareholder and President. The world is a small place isn't it ?

"Mac", as he is called by some, is now a speaker and adviser to key players in the fitness, wellness and business world in general. I recommend him highly. He kindly sat down to have a chat with me about "unopened gifts" on his weekly radio - tv show which airs every Thursday at 5 pm PST (the interview is below). It was a fun interview.

Jim is pursuing the publishing of his first book about "unopened gifts". Watch the interview below to learn more and tell me, Bryan O'Rourke, what are the things in your life that you feel are unopened gifts ? Please share your views and tell me your thoughts on the interview. Thanks Jim McPartland for having me on. I look forward to working together more closely in the months and years ahead.


NAYDO 2011 - See The Videos

NAYDO 2011 was a great conference. I left early after sharing a presentation on ephilanthropy (check out the ePhilanthropy group on Linkedin and presentation content here). A few videos from the event are below. The first is funny and the second is an interview with Dan Sawyer and my friend Sal Pellegrino from Star Trac. I want to mention what a great person Sal Pellegrino is in addition to the entire Star Trac team. Special thanks to Michael Bruno for our relationship as well. Tell me, Bryan O'Rourke, what do you think about the video clips ?