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How the lockdown ruins fitness studios: "Many customers stay away permanently"

2020-10-30T14:12:00.207Z

Sports studios have already lost many customers due to the pandemic. The recent closure will bring you into serious trouble, fears the head of a Hamburg club.



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Aspria boss Geraldine Seibel-Lübbke

Photo: Aspria

Hamburg-Uhlenhorst, near the Outer Alster.

The Aspria fitness studio in Hamburg-Uhlenhorst is still open normally.

A fever is measured at the reception counter, but nobody seems to really care about the value that day.

If you want to get in, you have to sign that you have no signs of infection.

For courses, customers must have registered in an app.

This is what the new normal has looked like in many sports studios in recent months.

Customers and employees alike have got used to it.

After the shutdown in spring, operations were back to normal.

Until this Wednesday the decision was announced that fitness studios must also be closed again from Monday.

Geraldine Seibel-Lübbke, 48, heads the two Aspria locations in Hamburg with around 10,000 members and 150 employees.

The new shutdown is a tough blow for them.

SPIEGEL: 

Ms. Seibel-Lübbke, you have to close again on Monday.

How are you? 

Seibel-Lübbke:

 We are shocked.

People want to keep themselves healthy, especially in this phase, and are not allowed to.

That is counterproductive.

In Hamburg, the major sports studios have around 80,000 members.

As far as I know, there were only two known corona cases among all of these members.

For us it was zero, although between 700 and 1000 members come every day.

None of our employees are sick either.

A regulation stipulates that a distance of 2.50 meters must be maintained during training.

That doesn't apply anywhere else.

We have also introduced fever measurements for everyone and have also sent home people whose value was increased.

Masks are required everywhere except in the pool and sauna.

We strictly enforce the rules.

And have invested a lot of money, for example in special air cleaning systems, an extended club cleaning system or Plexiglas panes to ensure the safety of our members. 

SPIEGEL: 

How did your members react to the measures taken so far?

Seibel-Lübbke:

 At first it was difficult and there were always discussions.

But the increasing numbers have helped us.

Today, many guests think the rules are good. 

SPIEGEL:

 Isn't it annoying if you can't go to the gym spontaneously, but have to register for everything via an app and hope for a free seat?

Seibel-Lübbke:

 Some find it terrible, others great.

You can track how many members are there and also see afterwards who it was should there be an infection.

The other guests can also see who is training with them.

But of course: it restricts spontaneity.

You have to plan, some don't like that, which I can understand. 

SPIEGEL: 

How did you financially survive the first shutdown in the spring?

It started on March 15th and you weren't allowed to open again until June 1st. 

Seibel-Lübbke: 

We are still concerned with the financial losses today.

Almost all clubs in Hamburg have around ten percent fewer paying members than before the crisis.

Above all, these were dismissals by high-risk patients or members who can no longer afford it.

We also have to compensate the members for the period of closure.

SPIEGEL:

 Customers of fitness studios complained that they couldn't get out of their contracts. 

Seibel-Lübbke: 

The legal situation is clear.

Of course we tried to keep people interested.

Those who stayed got their fees overcompensated in the form of vouchers or additional membership months without payment.

It was more difficult at the time when only parts of the club were allowed to be open and the saunas and pools remained closed.

We agreed in Hamburg that the members still have to pay the full price.

Not everyone liked that.

Then all they could do was resign. 

SPIEGEL: 

What will the new mini-shutdown from Monday do financially to your two studios?

Seibel-Lübbke: 

I fear far more dramatic consequences.

Many customers will now stay away permanently.

We have a lot of self-employed among our guests who simply can no longer afford that if their income breaks down.

Those who quit don't go angry.

But one must not forget: the crisis is having a full impact on the economy and the labor market.

At the end of the day, going to the gym is also a leisure experience.

That costs an average of 140 euros a month for us, a fixed expense that is gone all at once.

As a family you can quickly get to 300 euros.

We also lack additional income from personal training, special courses or sales of food and drinks.

We also have a small hotel with 48 rooms above the club in Hamburg-Uhlenhorst.

It looks bad there because nobody is allowed to spend the night there privately.

If the second shutdown hadn't come, we might have ended the year just barely positive.

That will no longer work. 

SPIEGEL: 

Are those who quit going to cheaper gyms?

Seibel-Lübbke:

 I think they

're

more likely to buy a racing bike, download a yoga app or run around the Alster.

We now know more than ever that the social component plays an important role in a club like ours. 

SPIEGEL:

 How are you preparing for the renewed closure now? 

Seibel-Lübbke: 

We have precise plans.

The effort is great.

Sure, you can switch off a sauna, but the pool still has to be chlorinated.

If the closure lasts longer, you have to drain the water, but we don't know if everything will be back to normal in December.

Planning security would be important for us, but there won't be.

Until then, employees have to repeatedly flush the water pipes to prevent germs from settling.

We have to send employees back on short-time work.

The location is really not good.

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Source: spiegel

All business articles on 2020-10-30

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