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Industry Innovator Continues Setting Growth Records
by Beverly Dykes
Founded in May of 2002 in Cambridge, MN, Anytime Fitness has evolved into the fastest growing fitness club franchise in the world, with more than 3,000 gyms open in 50 states and more than 20 countries globally. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Anytime Fitness’s philosophy of efficiency and friendliness, and its state-of-the-art operational structure, makes it the perfect fitness franchise for our health conscious, scaled-down economy. The chains phenomenal growth rate, innovation, and efficiency all combine to make this franchise the world’s largest 24 hour, co-ed fitness club concept, boasting thousands of territories sold and a membership base of over two million (as of 2014).
One of the appealing factors that has contributed to increased membership at Anytime Fitness centers has been its affordability. Charter members are entitled to no costs upon enrollment and the first month free. Member benefits encompass 24/7 access, hydro massage, virtual group training classes, personal training, nutritional counseling, friendly staff, continuously monitored premises, and internet enabled equipment. The concepts typical monthly rates range from $40 to $50 (about half of what competing chain clubs charge) – a real draw for gym devotees, who, rather than sacrifice their workouts, will seek out less expensive clubs to frequent. Thus, the average number of members at Anytime Fitness centers open at least a year has been steadily rising.
What makes this franchise so astonishingly successful is the concept’s innovative business model, which focuses on smaller, more efficient gyms, on eliminating expensive extras, and on security and surveillance systems that minimize operating costs for club owners, yielding a high return on investment. The business model allows franchisees to work minimal hours and spend the rest of their time following their personal passions. The basic idea, as summarized by co-founders Chuck Runyon, Jeff Klinger, and Dave Mortensen, is that people want a convenient and affordable place to go – with quality exercise equipment and a friendly atmosphere - where they can “get in, work out and get on with their lives.” While the members enjoy their workout experience, franchisees benefit from low barriers of entry to club ownership, high tech entry systems, and security features that allow them to operate remotely and with minimal staff. Proprietary access software, security and surveillance technology combine to ensure member safety, even during unstaffed hours at the clubs. And there is no downsizing of such important basics as comprehensive orientations and personal training options.
Some further aspects that promise outstanding success include seamless global reciprocity, wherein members who join one club can use any other Anytime Fitness facility at no extra charge. It is also notable that Anytime Fitness is one of the few fitness concepts to succeed in smaller population centers traditionally ignored by larger clubs. In fact, most of its members live or work within a 3-mile radius of an Anytime Fitness location. This convenience factor fuels the robust growth of the brand, as does each locations commitment to community involvement. Anytime Fitness is an important part of the community it serves, taking seriously its role in enriching lives. As a national leader in corporate partnerships and employee wellness programs, Anytime Fitness provides processing services and usage tracking for a variety of fitness incentive programs.
A new member reportedly joins the Anytime Fitness network every two minutes. Nearly 60% of the chain’s existing franchisees own multiple clubs and/or territories; which is made possible by the smooth running business model requiring minimal hands-on time from the franchisee. The streamlined model minimizes payroll costs while maximizing safety and enjoyment for the club’s members. From an ownership perspective, Anytime Fitness offers a proven business model and market-leading brand recognition.
For its outstanding achievements, the company has garnered numerous accolades over the course of its operating history. For the fourth year in a row, Anytime Fitness has been ranked #1 in category on Entrepreneur magazine’s 2015 Franchise 500 List, which takes into consideration a company’s financial strength and stability, growth rate and size of the system. It has also been named among the top global franchises, leading low-cost franchises, and has been honored with a Franchisee Satisfaction Award by Franchise Business Review for six consecutive years.
Anytime Fitness has grown by an average of 300 new gyms each year for the past eight years. The company’s long term projections are to have approximately 4000 clubs opened throughout the U.S., and another 4,000 gyms elsewhere around the globe as of 2020. Anytime Fitness executives are presently seeking out freestanding and attached sites for future projected growth of the chain (with 150-200 new units due to be added to the roster in 2015). The majority of the company’s clubs average 4,000 sq. ft. and are positioned in strip malls or retail centers. The company integrated a new franchise offering, Anytime Fitness Express, in late 2006. This prototype business opportunity is designed for sites affording less than 2,500 sq. ft. of operating space, and a market size typically less than 5,000 people – an ideal offering for rural market regions, or as a complement to a full-sized club in an existing territory. The range of space sizes considered is thus 2,000 to 7,000 sq. ft., with a requirement that signage and interior color schemes conform to the franchise model parameters (although all the clubs do not look alike).
The ideal location is in or near high density population centers that are well maintained and in proximity to high-use traffic patterns. The target customer is college educated males and females, ranging in age from 23 to 60, with a mid-level annual income. Anytime Fitness caters to those leading busy, active lifestyles, who are serious about taking care of themselves.
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