The Australian fitness industry re-emerges post pandemic restrictions
As NSW gyms and fitness centres prepare to reopen this Saturday, 13 June 2020, the 43 NSW-based Vision studio owners – who feared COVID-19 would be the end of the road, are eager to put the hardest chapter of their careers behind them.
The fitness industry was hit the hardest during the 2020 COVID-19 restrictions. The Illion & AlphaBeta (part of Accenture) report found consumer spending across the industry plummeted by 96 per cent, proving to be more affected than the entertainment (90%) and travel (84%) industries.
Since the first whispers of restrictions hitting Australia started, Founder and Managing Director, Andrew Simmons, made it his mission to stay two steps ahead of the unfolding situation.
“We knew we had the right processes for clients to achieve their goals and the right team to get them there. What we needed to change and fast, was how we executed our services and consider what our clients needed from us to best support them through a pandemic,” says Andrew.
Chris Jessop, who co-owns three Vision studios with his brother Michael in Lindfield, Lane Cove and the newest addition, Caringbah – which the pair purchased in February 2020, says when it became clear just what the pandemic would mean, he started preparing for the worst.
“It was so much more than a curveball; the future of the businesses we’ve been investing in for 12 years were in serious jeopardy,” says Chris.
According to Chris, the transition to offering services online and outside was executed smoothly, thanks to the direction from Vision HQ.
“Being a part of a franchise network that provided us with a solution so we could continue offering services immediately when our industry was in lockdown, is why we’re in the position to re-open the doors to all three of our studios this week,” Chris says.
“In early April, when lockdown restrictions were enforced, me and my team contacted all of our 700 clients over the phone to let them know about the changes and give them the opportunity to opt in or out of online and outdoor training.
“Having the ability to immediately offer an alternative way to deliver the high-quality coaching that we’re known for is how we managed to retain 60 per cent of our clients during lockdown,” says Chris.
Andrew Simmons, who had the weight of navigating his business and a network of 58 business owners through the pandemic, says quality leadership and leaning into the expertise of his team, was critical in his ability to see Vision through the storm.
“Having a team of professionals who each bring their own strengths and shared mindset meant we were able to build, execute and communicate a new way of offering clients the same high level of coaching, quickly.”
Chris says, “Whenever a new level of restrictions was introduced, the head office team communicated what this restriction meant for us along with a way we as a franchise would pivot to continue offering services while abiding by the new regulations.”
While all 58 studios are re-opening, the journey to making that possible has not come without sacrifice.
“Vision was founded on a strong set of values which are still front and centre today. When it became apparent that we needed to reduce headcount in order to keep all studios afloat, I had to let go of some of the most loyal and dedicated team members, based solely on the fact their area of expertise was redundant in this climate.
“Those meetings were the worst moments in my career,” Andrew says.
Andrew says that despite being 40 per cent down across the 58 studios in client numbers, Vision is in a strong position to rebuild.
“A great takeaway from what has been an extremely testing period, is that it's showcased our core offering is coaching and that the quality of it isn’t compromised by the means in which it’s delivered.”
Chris says, “If we weren’t in the Vision franchise, there is a good chance we wouldn’t have made it out alive.
“Many independently owned and operated fitness centres simply didn’t have the cash flow to execute online services before their members found their own way of staying fit or changing their mindset to health and fitness during the lockdown period.
“We’re really fortunate to be a part of a network that has the knowledge, funds and dedication to provide us with a solution in the face of a pandemic.”
To find out when your local Vision studio is re-opening, head to https://www.visionpt.com.au/.