9Round Pivots on Membership Strategy During COVID-19
Franchises everywhere have been slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and among the worst hit by a cratering of in-person traffic are gyms such as 9Round Fitness.
The kickboxing-themed fitness concept has essentially been kept from operating its core business as shelter-in-place orders and social-distancing protocols rolled around the country.
“We were a brick-and-mortar business, now we’re not able to be. Just like that. We invented a new business on Friday afternoon. What we had already is an online member portal, that has historically just included recipes and blogs and short tip-type videos. Now it’s how we’re running our whole business,” said 9Round co-founder and COO Heather Hudson.
She said the IT team especially rallied, increasing capacity and tweaking the layout for online-only operations. The other heroes have been in-house trainers and content creators who are creating the online workouts, which require no more equipment than a chair.
“Over a year ago, we added a full-time department of workout programmers and a videographer; we always had workout programming, but we really beefed it up in the last year and a half. Now, we need that department more than ever. They’re working over double time to make as many workouts as possible in a short timespan just in case of complete quarantine where they can’t go out of the house,” said Hudson. “They’re working tirelessly to provide new follow-along full, 30-minute workouts for members every day.”
And it’s not easy work; the trainers are doing the full workouts over and over while the videographer films.
“They are very sore and very tired,” said Hudson. “If 9Round had first responders it would be them. They are the ones that will save it. Thank God they're young. My husband and I used to make the workouts, we were the ones who filmed and demonstrated the workouts. Looking back, I can’t believe I did that.”
Heather and her husband and co-founder, Shannon Hudson, hosted a free workout on Facebook Live to both share the message about how members and new fans can help local operators by keeping their memberships going or becoming members to get access to the new virtual workouts. It's quite a workout—I’m still sore two days later.
Hudson said the decision to keep such workouts for members only was the best way they could think of to keep revenue flowing to franchisees.
“When we realized everyone may have to close down, our biggest challenge was figuring out what to do to give our franchisees any chance of retaining any income at all,” said Hudson. “They’ve either had to pause paying their trainers or had to temporarily lay them off so they can file for unemployment. On top of that stress, they have to pay for their own family’s groceries and try to stay afloat with other expenses, like rent and insurance for their business. What we all want most is for them to be able to open up their doors again after this is over.”
She said the company has also given some royalty relief to franchisees, who, she said, are pleased with the monumental efforts.
“It’s been an incredible rally, I’ve gotten more love letters from franchisees than ever. We’ve given royalty relief, what we can control. Even though that greatly decreases our working capital, so it’s a delicate balance,” said Hudson.
She said the company has also negotiated with vendors to bring some additional relief to franchieses.