How Can Small Health Clubs Compete With The Big Guns?


Owning an independent or local gym can be incredibly empowering.

However, it can be challenging to compete against the big-name brands. Especially those who have the capital to update their gym with the latest state of the art equipment as well as the resources and history to keep building a stronger brand awareness.

Small health clubs should not despair. In fact, small health clubs have a unique set of skills at their disposal which can help to make sure they can not only compete but have a competitive advantage over the big guns. If you want to put your gym on the map and make your small health club the go-to place compared to the traditional chains, then you have much power at your disposal.

Five ways that small health clubs can have a competitive edge

  • Staff knowledge

Your team of staff will be committed to your business and will have likely joined your team because they like your approach. However, it is likely that they would have worked in other health clubs before. With their experience in your health club and their knowledge of previous health club employers, they are likely to have valuable expertise that can be put into practice at your gym.

Listening to staff ideas and improvements could prove to be invaluable. In the big health club chains, staff are often considered as a cog in the wheel and have no input into business strategy. By engaging staff and building good relationships with your team, you may have access to successful ideas you have not thought of.

The fact that staff are listened to also makes them happier in the workplace, meaning they will improve service levels and be willing to help, which is a benefit for your clients and your business.

  • Feel agile

Fitness, health and beauty trends roll around so quickly that your small health club has the opportunity to adapt and be one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. With fewer decision makers to pass and fewer hurdles to jump through, it means you can set up the latest beauty treatment, fitness class or health technology with ease.

By setting up the latest health club buzz as quickly as possible, you have a captive audience that will continue because of your high level of service. Six months later, when the big gun health clubs get around to offering the new trend, you will already have taken up most of the market share in the local area.

  • Community empowerment

Your small health club has the unique opportunity to be a part of the local community. Many consumers prefer to support the small businesses over the big chains and do try to buy locally where possible. This is no different for your health club membership. Clients love that by supporting your local health club, they are supporting their community, helping it to thrive and be bustling with activity.

It is important also to give back to the community too. You can do this by supporting the local sports team and offering team deals. You can also help with local schools and hospitals, with your instructors conducting visits as well as providing your space for local events.

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  • Customer first

With a small health club, every day is a chance to assess your business strategy by evaluating your customers and their habits. You can continually tweak your plan to improve the customer experience. While the big gun gyms can feel impersonal to many clients, your small health club has the opportunity to make your place feel welcoming, friendly and supportive.

While customers will often want to relax in peace at your health club, the fact that your instructors are on hand and perhaps are known on first-name terms means it’s easy for clients to ask for advice and similarly, instructors can offer tips for improvement.

Getting to know people’s training plans and goals can also help to build their motivation, making them more determined to succeed with a supportive health club behind them. This is ideal for customers to share their experience and positive word of mouth of your business will quickly spread.

  • Social space

One advantage of big gun gyms is the fact they often have the flexibility to be open for extended hours so that they can serve a greater number of people. However, your gym does have the flexibility to work out which are the popular times and adjust your schedule accordingly. In fact, you can almost craft your program based on the social habits of your members.

Where the big gyms can feel large and intimidating, your small health club can have a welcoming feel, especially if you emphasise the social side. Consider offering ‘yoga and coffee’ mornings to fill the late morning lull and attract members who want to improve their social life. You can also partner up with other activities at other locations too to try and keep your gym busy which then may give you the capital to have more extended opening hours so that your small health club can compete with the big guns.

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