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6.5.20   11:52 AM Innovation - Consumer

Gyms are reopening their doors. But nobody is showing up.

30 states have allowed gyms to reopen in some capacity, but nobody's curling in the squat rack.

Gyms are reopening across the country as states are easing up on stay-at-home advisories. But people aren’t showing up yet.

Though 30 states have already allowed gyms to reopen in some capacity or will in the near future, Facebook “We’re Here” and Talking About counts for some of the largest fitness clubs in the country are stagnant.

Planet Fitness ($PLNT), Crunch ($PRIVATE:CRUNCHFITNESS), LA Fitness ($PRIVATE:LAFITNESS), 24 Hour Fitness ($PRIVATE:24HOURFITNESS) and Gold’s Gym ($PRIVATE:GOLDSGYM) all saw engagement across social media soar leading up to and after March 19 when California became the first state to issue a stay-at-home advisory. Planet Fitness saw Talking About Counts jump as enormously high as 959 percent in a week, While LA-based companies 24 Hour Fitness and LA Fitness, which both announced closures on March 16, saw increases of 187 percent and 159 percent respectively.

On the other hand, Equinox and its brands experienced a major downturn in Talking About Count before and after they announced closures on March 16, with the exception of Blink Fitness which saw a 722 percent increase up to 3,560, still only a fraction of the boost Planet Fitness saw.

These spikes don’t mean that Americans suddenly decided to get shredded; it was just the news at the time. But even as gyms begin to reopen, Talking About counts are not increasing. In fact, in some cases, they are doing the opposite, dipping below pre-pandemic numbers — perhaps a sign that the recent success of at-home fitness companies isn’t just a temporary fluke.

But this may soon change as more states' economies reopen. Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, for example, announced that gyms would be allowed to open on May 18, but companies like Planet Fitness and LA Fitness slowly rolled out openings on a case-by-case basis with some clubs still opening over the following week.

And even despite clubs implementing increased health and safety guidelines, sanitation still largely falls on individual members cleaning up after themselves. Customers might just not trust their fellow gym-goers to do it well enough. Pumping iron doesn’t seem worth the risk if you could catch COVID from someone who didn’t wipe down their dumbbells. Still, gyms are staffed up, and investors are betting on a bounce-back.

Despite all the caginess around reopening, the pandemic’s extended closures may not have harmed the value of gyms as much as one might think. Planet Fitness’ Linkedin count has continued to grow uninterrupted throughout the lockdown, and its share price has recovered about 73 percent of its pre-crash value. Planet Fitness is also one of the largest fitness clubs in the country and has 1,194 locations in the 30 states that have reopened gyms.

But it’s yet to be seen if the pandemic or its imprint will last long enough to have a serious impact on the industry. Everything is in flux. Fitness may make a permanent shift towards becoming a household activity — and even if it doesn’t, it may still be a while before gyms return to their regular rate of business.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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