Established in Venice Beach, California in 1965, Gold’s Gym is the largest full-service gym chain in the world with more than 700 locations in 42 states and 30 countries. The iconic brand ranks in the top 200 of Entrepreneur magazine’s 2012 “Franchise 500.” Gold’s Gym offers the latest equipment and services, including group exercise, personal training, cardiovascular equipment, group cycle, Pilates, and yoga. With nearly 3.5 million members worldwide, Gold’s Gym helps all kinds of people achieve their individual potential through fitness.
Last year, Gold’s Gym introduced a new concept gym to help individuals of all fitness levels achieve their health and fitness goals at a cost-effective price. Gold’s Gym Express was developed with today’s wide spectrum of consumer needs in mind. From the Gold’s Gym Express’ signature circuit training area and its strength equipment to its collection of cardio machines and Cardio Cinema, every piece has been put in place to foster easy-in and easy-out access. Even the clubs’ well-appointed locker rooms and tanning beds offer unrivaled convenience.
The standard monthly dues at a typical Gold’s Gym Express start at $9.99, with an upgraded membership available at $19.99, which includes unlimited guest privileges.
Tim Hicks is the Senior Vice President of Franchising and Licensing for Gold’s Gym International.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you tell us a bit about the history of Gold’s Gym?
Tim Hicks (TH): Gold’s Gym was started in Venice Beach, California in 1965 by Joe Gold. What was originally a single body-building gym catering to the male competitive bodybuilder is now the most recognized name in fitness around the globe, serving more than 3.5 million members through over 700 Gold’s Gyms. While names like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno still resonate in the Venice Beach “mecca” of Gold’s Gym, the brand has transcended into a place where the entire family can enjoy health and fitness.
FC: Last year, you introduced a new gym format called Gold’s Gym Express. Can you tell us how this new format differs from the traditional Gold’s Gym we all know, and your reasons for creating this new brand?
TH: Gold’s Gym remains committed to full service facilities providing a full menu of workout options, from group exercise, personal training, and the opportunity to manage your own exercise regimen, plus child care, kids gyms, and other amenities for the entire family’s exercise experience. The full amenity clubs can run from 25,000 square feet to well over 60,000 square feet.
But Gold’s Gym also recognizes that we live and work in a very busy, time limiting world where there is a need for a workout facility where waiting is not required, where quick in and quick out exercising is available, and with top of the line fitness equipment — and lots of it! The Gold’s Gym Express Club is typically 15,000 square feet and loaded with 35-40 treadmills along with bikes, ellipticals, and strength lines, too. The Gold’s Gym Express Club is a great place to maximize time and workout. Easy in, easy out.
FC: Under what circumstances would opening a Gold’s Gym Express be more appropriate than opening a traditional Gold’s Gym?
TH: The Gold’s Gym Express Club has a different mission, but does not necessarily require a different marketplace. Both the full amenity and express club can be located in the same marketplace — they complement each other — and a member of a full amenity club could also hold a membership in the Gold’s Gym Express Club with its attractive $9.99 and $19.99 memberships.
FC: What are your thoughts on the new fitness franchise concepts that have caught the attention of gym-goers, particularly the no-frills 24/7 gyms? Do you plan on offering the same 24/7 access to your gyms at some point in the future?
TH: The Gold’s Gym Express Clubs may be considered to be what you are describing, but to suggest the express clubs are “no frills” would be inaccurate. The Gold’s Gym Express Clubs are equipped with top of the line fitness equipment, our signature cardio cinema, and expansive, clean locker rooms. Quality is not skipped. We offer great value for a great price.
FC: Can you describe the ideal franchisee for a Gold’s Gym?
TH: Solid business people with a passion for improving the lives of members.
FC: What is the ideal neighborhood and territory for a Gold’s Gym and a Gold’s Gym Express?
TH: The ideal neighborhood is where there are people wanting to be healthy and to improve their quality of life. Like any business, a successful Gold’s Gym must be located where the demographics can justify placing the full amenity or express club in the area. Gold’s Gym is a people focused business, so areas where there is a good mix of residential and retail businesses are well suited for a Gold’s Gym.
FC: What specific steps do your most successful franchisees take in order to build and grow their respective businesses?
TH: The more successful franchises have a good community connection and also a strong marketing program to reach potential members. Gold’s Gym International provides strong national, regional, and local marketing campaigns to franchises.
FC: What are some of the things you are doing to help your franchisees become profitable?
TH: Gold’s Gym International provides marketing and operational support, and local representatives to assist the franchisees in improving best practices. We also provide a global vendor program for franchisees to purchase equipment and services at very competitive pricing. GCI also provides membership leads to its franchisees.
FC: Can you tell us a bit about the initial investment and ongoing expenses needed to open and operate a Gold’s Gym and Gold’s Gym Express? What is the profit potential?
TH: It is best that potential franchisees review our Franchise Disclosure Documents for this information.
FC: What are your goals for Gold’s Gym in the next few years and how do you plan on growing your business?
TH: Gold’s Gym International is bullish on the fitness industry and expect solid growth in 2012 and 2013. Fitness is not a fad but a way of life, and we see our brand as a great place for people to improve their quality of life. We encourage first time club owners to take a very close look at our Express Club concept — a fun, much easier model to manage while still making a difference in the quality of life of its members.
FC: What advice can you give prospective franchisees on how to evaluate the overwhelming number of franchise opportunities available to them?
TH: Review each opportunity very carefully. Brand recognition and the depth of services provided by the franchisor are essential elements to success. Go with experience, go with reputation, and go with the franchisor that knows the business. Remember, Gold’s Gym International is both a franchisor and a club owner — we are in the business of our business.