By Melanie Levenberg

With the recent measures taken by governments worldwide in light of COVID-19, society has been forced to drastically change its behaviours in a relatively short amount of time. This includes how and where people exercise.

Boutique studios, gyms and fitness chains alike have all been forced to consider and explore virtual exercise classes. Whether you have decided to offer new (or more frequent) online classes, or prefer to ride the wave and re-launch your services when you can physically re-open your doors, as business operators, you must ask yourself – what impact will this change in behaviour have on long-term business operations and sales?

When it comes to group exercise, the fact is that humans will always be humans with a need for social contact and connection, affected by their environment, and motivated through visual and auditory senses.

Offering in-person group classes will always fulfill a need that your clients have.

However, with the COVID-19 closures, experts predict a significant impact on the economy, some even identifying a period of significant recession. Double whammy!

So how do you prepare to navigate a change in behaviour with a change in financial status for many of your clients?

Milan Kundera said “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.”

Studio owners and operators who understand these two functions, in relation to their clients’ needs and desires, have an opportunity to stretch their strategies outside of the box to evolve their enterprise into its next phase of growth and prosperity.

This time is an unforeseeable gift bestowed to all of us to examine opportunities in all areas of our lives; for boutique fitness studio and gym operators owners this opportunity lies in children’s fitness programming.

Business – What’s the opportunity?

Introducing kids fitness programs allows you to bring in additional streams of revenue by increasing your program offerings, maximizing down-time during scheduling gaps, and leveraging the space you already have, with minimal additional overhead expenditures.

Offering expanded programming at your facility also enhances your businesses’ credibility and reputation as a leading fitness provider in your community.

Facilities – Do I have to be a licensed facility for kids?

In most cases, studios who choose to offer children’s programming are not required to adhere to daycare licensing regulations. Depending on the age of the children in the program, business owners should consider the available changing area space and bathroom facilities.

Training/Certification – What qualifications do instructors need to have?

All instructors who lead children’s programs must hold a police records check and should have CPR-C certification. Children’s fitness program certifications remains an emerging field in the fitness industry, with only a few accredited bodies offering full certification programs, including High Five® and PL3Y International. You can also learn more with canfitpro’s professional development Children’s Fitness Coach course.

Operations – When could kids classes be offered?

Daytime parent and child programming for preschool age children can help you leverage the use of often-empty studio gap hours. (10:00am-11:30am) (1:00pm-3:00pm), while after-school drop-off programming for school age children allows you to maximize your scheduled offerings between 3:00pm-5:00pm and evenings in any schedule gaps. Considering transition time between children’s programs and adult fitness classes or training sessions is also important to ensure that there is adequate space for parents, children and patrons.

Programming – Who will design the program?

Several companies (including PL3Y Inc.) offer pre-packaged and branded children’s fitness programs where instructors are provided with pre-made and standardized program plans. Independent instructors with a background in Physical Education, Kinesiology, and who have completed the Children’s Fitness Coach Training from canfitpro could individually create class plans and fitness activities.

Marketing – How do I “sell” this now?

Give parents the solutions they are seeking: fitness programs that support their kids’ physical and mental health.

Following the COVID-19 at-home isolations, parents will be looking to offset the incubation time with programs that foster physical connections, develop social skills and support healthy development and growth. This has been proven in the past (keep reading).

Business (yes, again) – Will parents pay for these programs?

History has demonstrated that when communities are shut down due to an emergency, there is a significant desire to support children in “recovering” from the sudden transitions and temporary out-of-routine lifestyle once things go back to “normal”.

Observing behaviours through the 2008-2012 recession, one of Canada’s leading children’s fitness franchises experienced consistent and growing registration, proving that although domestic funding was more restricted, parents continued to consistently choose to invest in programs for the growth and development of their children.

This also proved true in 2016, following the Fort McMurray fires; although many local organizations offered free summer camp programming, families  chose to register their kids for paid-service camps that offered fitness options. In fact, one of our DANCEPL3Y providers sold out multiple weeks of their fee-for-service DANCEPL3Y camps city-wide!

The Bottom Line

We all say it “kids are the future”. In this period of societal deceleration and reflection, as you evaluate your strategies, programs, and service offerings, I challenge you to consider how kids could be the future of your business.

About Melanie Levenberg

Melanie Levenberg, M.Ed, is an international speaker, author, TEDx Presenter and the Founder/CEO of PL3Y INC. – world leader in pre-packaged kids fitness programs, instructor trainings and licensing. PL3Y offers award-winning programs designed by kids fitness experts to develop physical literacy through dance, yoga and fitness.