First Corona, now energy prices explode: Fitness studios face a threatening winter. But how bad will the energy crisis really be for the industry? asked SWR Sport.
Most people who go to a gym are looking for more than just a weight bench. In addition to treadmills, state-of-the-art technical sports equipment is available in large, air-conditioned and lighted rooms. Additionally, many studios offer saunas or even full wellness areas. All of this requires electricity. But electricity prices are skyrocketing.
The energy crisis hits a sore point in many fitness studios after Corona. Michael Schetter, co-owner of a gym chain with eleven agencies in Baden-Württemberg, speaks of the “worst moment in history”. Also in the state capital of Stuttgart, at Jörg Echtermann’s fitness and wellness clubs, the number of members has fallen rapidly since the pandemic and has not increased since the reopening in June 2021. Even then, the studios fought for every invited, but despite the suspension of membership dues, almost a quarter of the members were lost.
Instead, what is rising are maintenance costs: on top of inflation-related rent increases, there are sky-high electricity bills to pay, which are difficult. In Stuttgart, CEO Echtermann receives four times as much instead of 11,000 euros on his electricity bill: 45,000 euros per month. Michael Schetter’s costs have also more than tripled. These are costs that can only be managed by digging deeper into his wallet. Numbers that scratch existence.
Between service and economy
It goes without saying that you have to save energy in this situation. The big question is how the “balancing act between service and profitability” can be achieved, according to Schetter. For most studies, this means reducing the opening hours of saunas. The effective use of ventilation, heating and lighting is also being considered.
Of course, this is only possible as long as the offer itself is maintained: no electricity for the training equipment means no training. For many people, going to the sauna after working out is an integral part of their routine and a key reason to join a studio. Therefore, closing saunas completely could be a painful measure. The number of members who make their visit dependent on the existence of a wellness area varies from studio to studio. However, it is an important factor that many homeowners need to consider at this time.
Are the reserves enough?
The deciding factor for the studios this winter will be how many reserves they can access. It is not clear to everyone how they will handle the massive bills. The biggest financial lever that is available to operators is membership fees, but the fear of new exits is great. None of the managing directors contacted by SWR Sport mentioned increases in contributions. However, many studios are currently turning this screw.
Others deliberately keep the price low and try to attract new trainees who pay with sweepstakes or advertising, a risky investment ahead of an untold winter. If you have no reservations, you face a situation with no easy solution.
Hans Gerhard Merkelbach, managing director of several gyms in Bad Kreuznach, predicts a dark future for the industry if there is no state support for independent medium-sized companies: “At some point the lights will go out everywhere if we have to pay more for energy than what we earn.”