The Demise of the Gym Membership

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The Demise of the Gym Membership

3 actions to take and profit in the aftermath of False Fitness

Having been in Thailand since 2004, I have witnessed a lot of growth in this city and I actually remember when True Fitness opened its first branch in Exchange Tower in 2006.

It was a vivid memory, as at the time, I was cycling around on my beaten up old push bike battling through the exhaust fumes visiting condo’s and parks to deliver personal training sessions. All the while, I was feeling just a little bit green with envy about these big chain gyms with huge financial backing, amazing equipment, and constantly uplifted facilities.

I’d be totally lying if I said I didn’t have a wry smile of satisfaction on my face when fast forward to 2017, I received the news that they announced they closed down the gym at Exchange Tower. Coincidence or not, the news came the same year my own gym just turned 5 years old.

But I’m going to be the bigger man here and swiftly sidestep the need to gloat 😉

So, what lessons can we take away from the recent True Fitness fiasco both of the business and consumer side?

The most recent article I read from the Bangkok Post was that the company blamed “insufficient flexibility” against the landlords, meaning they were unable to restructure the business and were not able to bring in a new operator whilst in the meantime paying astronomical rent.

I find this interesting if it’s true because the reason why anyone starts a business or operation should be down to the mission statement, which derives down to everything from your front desk staff, managers, and trainers all the way to the cleaners.

As a professional operator, shouldn’t this be the reason why you get into a market in the first place?

True or not, I’m not here to preach, rather give a friendly little helping hand to exasperated customers feeling burnt from this episode, and also to my fellow fitness business operators both of which have a great chance to benefit long term in the wake of this most recent scam.

I’ll be honest, I am not the most business savvy person on the planet, and believe it or not, my successes haven’t just come from my irresistible charm and personality 😉

Of course, I’m joking, I do read up on a lot of business/fitness books, as well as reflect on my mistakes. The past has shown me that sometimes, amidst the chaos, a fruitful opportunity awaits.

Last week, there was an industry talk in Bangkok where it was stated that currently, 1% of the population in Thailand has a gym membership. A trend expected to rise up to 5% into next year.

Keeping in mind the possible validity (or not) of that statement, I found it encouraging. After some research and good conversation with colleagues and clients, I put together 3 actions that consumers and businesses can take immediately to profit in the aftermath of a True Fitness-like crisis.

Opportunity Knocks

For consumers who have bought packages at True, start to go and visit some of the other gyms who will be offering 1-day, 1-week or 1-month free memberships as well as consultations of PT sessions to win back your customer value.

This might also be a great time to renegotiate your next 1-year membership rate, especially if you join with a group of friends.

For fitness business owners and trainers – nothing beats sincerity and passion for what you do: All those vulnerable consumers out there are now looking for compassion and guidance.

So, by simply ‘being yourself’ you have the perfect opportunity to not only gain clients but most importantly educate people on the benefits of your training system, and provide a solution to the needs of these aggrieved customers.

Is There Value in your purpose?

When shopping around for the best health and fitness program to suit you, I’d like to encourage you to take your time and consider all the elements you would like to base your decision on and not just jump into whichever turns out being the cheapest or most convenient.

Everyone is looking to get the best deal, right? If you’re out on the hunt for a new fitness center, you’ll need to understand what the TRUE value is behind the program, product or service is that you want, and most importantly, what suits your goals and needs.

If you are going to invest time into anything then go all in. Learn how to exercise properly through solid tuition and guidance from a professional, all of this has VALUE which you won’t get from a quick flash deal on a 2-year membership and personal training program for 20,000 baht.

Start by making a list of all the elements you would like to have at your disposal first.

Is your decision based on location/convenience, professionalism, a variety of activities, facilities, tuition, or learning skills?

Once you’ve identified the key areas that are important to you in a fitness facility, then you have narrowed down your choice and can start to be specific about your intentions and your goals.

On the fitness business side – understand and always identify with your clear purpose and a vision for yourself or your company. What is your unique value proposition to the consumer, and is it powerful?

I like to call this the non-negotiable’s, these core values and beliefs of a business are never to be compromised because this is the foundation of who you are and what you will continue to build on.

So, if you set yourself up as a flexible, 24-hour gym then be exactly that! If you set yourself up as a high-end facility then, likewise, be exactly that and nothing more, nothing less.

Compromising on your beliefs and values will not only confuse the customer, it will confuse your employees and create more instability. This will fail to create a strong and sustainable connection to your brand or organization.

A Need for Change

Do you even need a run of the mill gym membership anymore? With so many well-equipped condo gyms, online workout applications, new parks, and boutique gym studios/programs – failing to mention Airbnb group style class passes available to the general public – is the regular gym membership even a valid product anymore?

What is the reason we feel we need one and does it satisfy customer needs in this current climate?

A whole new generation has since surpassed the California and True Fitness days of yore, the current climate is extremely demanding. Our shorter attention spans demand things be faster, smaller, more streamlined, easier to use, more technologically advanced, more data, more reports, with more of a personal touch to top it off.

Building four walls and adding some gym equipment will not cut it anymore. The 2017 consumer needs to have all of his senses stimulated on a daily basis. As the consumer changes and evolves—so must the industry to supply the best possible customer experience.

The only constant we can actually rely on is that life changes. The quicker we get used to that, the better, as the person with the most flexibility holds the most power.

Tech companies and social media are getting smarter and smarter. It feels like every 5 minutes we are getting sold to by a Sponsored Ad for something you may have clicked or ‘liked’ 6 months ago.

I find that raising your level of awareness and focusing on your intuition will help guide you to making the right choice to suit your exact needs.

Consumers identifying their boundaries through discipline and nonnegotiable’s will be in a better position when purchasing products or services by managing their expectations. Choosing the right program that suits their needs rather than settling for the quickest and most immediate option.

Shop around and take free trials to see what program fits well and what feels the most comfortable for you.


After 15 years in the Industry, it feels like a good time to step back and observe evolution, as well as the process of development and diversification in the fitness field from its original form.

What performed well yesterday will not necessarily be the best option today or even tomorrow, so with a constant progression that develops to cater the demands of society and in this particular industry, I foresee a fantastic opportunity ahead for both customers and fitness businesses.

Perhaps now is a good time for both client and business to take a step back and reflect on what we have been doing and decide on whether they are truly serving our purpose.

“Encouraging you to move Intentionally’

  • Richard Cohen CEO & Founder The LAB

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