More gyms across the UK are switching to 24/7 access, that calls for an effective 24-hour gym access system and software to stay in control. Find out more about this trend and see what you need to consider to make 24-hour opening a success.
According to the LeisureDB State of the UK Fitness Industry Report 2023, 31% of private gyms and fitness clubs are open 24/7. And with the biggest operators, such as PureGym and The Gym Group, offering 24/7 access across hundreds of UK locations, gym owners and operators are considering making the switch.
What are the benefits of going 24/7? How do you make sure you have the right 24-hour gym access system to keep your club secure? What common concerns do need to overcome?
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Benefits of switching to 24-hour gym access
Switching to 24-hour gym access was a topic discussed at the Independent Gyms Summer Conference 2023. The Independent Gyms Doing Things Differently: 24/7 & Unmanned panel saw industry expert Guy Griffiths joined on stage by 3 gym owners.
Those owners had all taken the leap to go 24/7 and/or switch to unmanned access control. The 3 gym owners were:
- Clare Bayley – The Loft Gym, Evesham – previously a ladies-only gym, The Loft Gym went 24/7 post-pandemic and switched to become accessible for everyone interested in training
- John Grindrod – FTC Gym, Ipswich – this affordable large-scale gym went 24/7 coming out of COVID following staffing challenges and a loss of members
- Rich Harvey – Hurt Locker, Bridport – this hybrid gym switched to unmanned access control to operate more effectively
The panel shared details of the many benefits of moving to this operating model for owners and operators, as well as for members.
Pros for gym owners & operators
As an owner or operator, offering 24/7 gym access can bring big benefits:
Better work/life balance
Running a gym is both incredibly rewarding and seriously hard work. A common benefit of going 24/7 (and investing in unmanned access control) for gym owners is the ability to achieve a better work/life balance.
Do you find yourself working long hours in your club? And operating with minimal gym staff, needing to come in at short notice to cover sickness and other absences?
Switching to unmanned, 24-hour gym access can be transformational. It has been for the owners on the Independent Gyms panel.
Before moving to unmanned access, Rich Harvey from Hurt Locker found himself working as many as 90 hours a week. All to keep the community club open for members. The gym can now operate without him physically having to be there. So, Rich can work fewer hours, has greater flexibility, and can spend more time with members.
Similarly, Clare Bayley from The Loft Gym shared that her small, but mighty, team of 3 can work much more flexible hours now. Fantastic for attending appointments that must take place during standard work hours. And spending more time with family and friends.
Increase revenue & competitiveness
Two of the biggest gym chains in the UK offer members 24/7 access at an affordable price. PureGym with 345 clubs and The Gym Group with 230 clubs. That’s hundreds of low cost locations offering gymgoers the option of working out at any time of day or night.
So, there’s increasing pressure on gyms of all shapes and sizes, to give members round the clock access.
For some gyms, like The Loft Gym, this can be a competitive advantage with no others in the area open 24/7. And for others like FTC Gym, this stops members leaving (or never signing up) as they choose to go with one of the clubs nearby offering 24/7 access instead.
John Grindrod from FTC Gym shared that the investment needed to go 24/7 was recouped within 3 months. The club has now become profitable, and an upgrade is being planned. A fantastic example of how 24-hour gym access can payoff.
Going 24/7 helps you attract members looking for after-hours access. So, you can grow your membership base and retain more existing members.
And, less time is spent manually signing in members as they enter and you reduce the need to always have a staff member present. That means you’ll reduce admin work for you and your team.
Greater security, control, and insights
To become a 24/7, unmanned gym, you need to have the right 24-hour gym access system in place. That often means making an initial hardware and software investment. In return, you’ll enjoy better security, more control, and greater insight into the habits of your members.
You’ll be able to set up your own rules for who can access the facilities within your gym. So, specific areas can be accessed by certain members.
Plus, once a membership ends, or if a member falls into debt, access can be immediately stopped. Likewise, new members can get access as soon as they join.
You’ll have total control and be able to manage access centrally without needing to be on site. And with every member needing to scan in when they visit, you’ll have greater insight into who visits when.
Use this rich visit data to understand occupancy of your club. And identify trends in who uses your gym and when. You can even use this to better target existing and prospective members.
Pros for members
For existing and prospective members, the benefits of your business going 24/7 and unmanned include:
Your members live busy lives and that can make getting to the gym a challenge. Going 24/7 offers members the ultimate convenience to fit their workout into their lifestyle and schedule.
For shift workers and those working unsociable hours, the option to workout at night or in the early hours of the morning is incredibly helpful.
For example, The Loft Gym is located on the high street in Evesham. And now that the club is open 24/7, those who work evenings at restaurants and bars nearby can pop in after work to train. A great way to winddown after a busy shift!
For those who want to work out around family and caring commitments, the ability to go at any time of the day or night makes it easier to get a workout in. If members can use your gym when they want to, they are more likely to stick with you for longer.
For some members, having access to a 24/7 gym can even provide a sociable ‘night out’ activity. Studies have found that Gen Zers and Millennials are drinking less than older generations did at the same age.
John Grindrod from FTC Gym shared that typically the club sees around 25 members between midnight and 4.30am. And there’s often groups of 16–18-year-olds working out around 11pm on certain nights of the week. It’s a great opportunity as an owner to help this age group get to grips with gym etiquette while forming a healthy, sociable habit.
New to working out. Need to avoid busy places. Want to get through their workout without waiting for equipment to become available. Offering 24/7 gym access can make it easier for members like these to choose a quieter time to work out.
Your 24-hour gym software, should let you share occupancy levels with your members, so they can see when you’re typically busiest.
John shared that offering more choice of hours can help some FTC Gym members, such as those who are neurodiverse, to pick a quieter time to work out. Members who are new to working out or less confident, may also appreciate the option of choosing a time when fewer members will be around.
Value for money
Value is the perceived usefulness of a product or service. For some members, value will be measured through your opening hours (as well as, through your equipment, staff, facilities, classes etc.).
By giving the option of access at any time of the day and week, you can increase the perceived value of being a member of your fitness club. Even if most members still attend at the same time they always have, the option to work out whenever they want can be very appealing.
Members want to be able to use their membership with ease. It’s frustrating for members if they need to wait in a queue to check in as they arrive for a work out.
Your 24/7 gym access control system removes this problem. Members won’t need to wait for a staff member to check them in. Instead, they can scan their card or code to get instant access without the need to wait around.
Choosing a 24-hour gym access system
It’s easy to see why gym owners and operators choose to go 24/7. If you are looking to make the switch for your fitness business, you need to have the right 24-hour gym management software in place.
What should you look for in a 24-hour gym access system?
- A responsive, web-based solution that’s always using completely up-to-date member data, with an onsite back up in case of internet outages
- The ability to manage access in real-time as memberships start, are suspended and end
- When a member misses a payment, you should be able to choose whether access is granted. An all-in-one solution with embedded membership payments will make this easy without any delays. It should also be easy for a member to make a catch-up payment online and instantly gain access
- Access control equipment that integrates with your software to allow you to choose who can visit which areas of your club. And it can stop tailgating (where an unauthorised person enters directly behind an authorised member)
- Support for dynamic QR codes (where a member generates a QR code via a mobile app each time they visit). This prevents code sharing and avoids fraudulent use. This method of access control also makes it easy for new members (and visitors) to access your gym no matter the time of day they join (or buy a pass)
This type of gym check-in software will allow you to track access. So, you’ll know exactly who is in your club and when. You can identify busy and quiet periods.
Manage your 24/7 gym business effectively
That detailed access and visit information allows you to make smart business decisions. Know which facilities are most in demand. See which part of membership packages are most used. Understand demographic usage trends.
Get the insights you need to optimise operations. Perhaps you need to change staffing levels at certain times? Or a particular area could be closed off overnight to reduce operating costs? Maybe specific facilities are more in demand than others and some areas could be repurposed? Granular access control and the right software should give you access to all this information.
Adjust your gym pricing strategy and membership packages. Could you tweak your offering to encourage access at certain times only? Perhaps there are elements of a package that are never used? Or a specific bolt-on certain members would get value from (allowing you to earn additional revenue)? Access data can help you make these types of decision.
Target the marketing and operational communications you send. With 24/7 gym software that includes integrated marketing capabilities, you’ll be able to create segmented, personalised messages based on specific access trends.
That could mean targeting those who attend during unmanned hours with specific advice or guidance to enhance their training. Or with a specific survey or operational message.
Overcoming common concerns when going 24/7
There are many benefits to switching to offer 24-hour gym access for members and owners alike. Yet, there are also common concerns to overcome.
The Independent Gyms Doing Things Differently: 24/7 & Unmanned panel at the Independent Gyms 2023 summer conference, discussed some of these concerns. And shared how the owners on the panel had overcome them:
Falling service levels
Losing the level of service that members had become accustomed to. That was a concern for FTC Gym.
With more times when staff levels would be minimal, and less need for staff to monitor access. The club worried that members would feel service levels drop after the operating change.
However, owner John Grindrod shared that service levels are now better than before FTC Gym went 24/7. And John can now take his whole team to events and training sessions. Improving team morale and building better educated team members.
Loss of community
For Clare Bayley, owner of The Loft Gym, there was concern that the community feeling within the gym would be lost when moving to a 24/7 and unmanned model.
The gym has worked hard to maintain community through digital channels like Facebook. As well as making sure all new members get an in-person tour.
And Clare shared that the right team members, plus passionate long-term members, help spread the community vibe. Even when Clare isn’t there in person.
Likewise, to maintain a community feel that’s so important as an independent club, FTC Gym are also putting in similar efforts to build community. Team members focus on engaging every member with a ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to create a personal touch.
FTC Gym owner, John Grindrod, also shared that he visits during key hours where newer and younger members visit. Plus, the club makes a big effort on social media.
Increased energy costs
For some clubs, opening 24/7 will also mean an increase in the amount of electricity used.
FTC Gym has overcome rising costs by turning off lights, equipment and electronics in areas that are not used, particularly overnight. The club is also looking at adding solar energy to cut costs over the longer term.
The Loft Gym has focused on getting the basics right. Including using lower cost LED lighting and using windows for cooling rather than air conditioning. Plus, timers are in place to turn fans off after an hour of use.
The Loft Gym was previously a ladies-only gym. In moving away from this and going 24/7, Clare Bayley shared that some members had left or were worried about being there alone.
To overcome this and reassure members, the club has installed panic buttons, CCTV and uses a 24-hour gym access system that only allows one member to enter at a time.
Equipment theft and damage is also a concern as gym owners and operators look to become a 24/7 gym. The owners shared that through effective access control, strategic use of CCTV, and strong communities, this hasn’t been any more of an issue than it was before they made the switch.
The wrap up…
More gyms and fitness clubs are choosing to move to round the clock, 24/7 opening with unmanned access control. Better work/life balance. Increased revenue and competitiveness. Greater security and access control. There are many benefits to 24/7 gym access for owners and members too.
And with the right 24-hour gym access system, owners and operators find the transition smooth. Granular visit and access data also powers better decision making, operational efficiencies and powerful marketing.
It’s common to have concerns when making a business change like this. Yet, owners are finding these are relatively easy to overcome with the right approach and a little work.
Get the fuel to operate 24/7 and take your business to new heights. Request a demo to see the value that Xplor Gym can bring to your fitness business.
Article by Xplor Gym
First published: 07 August 2023
Last updated: 30 October 2023