It’s survival of the fittest for gyms

  • Nation
  • Friday, 29 May 2020

Daily upkeep: A gym attendant busy maintaining gym equipment during the MCO.

GEORGE TOWN: Even when they finally reopen, struggling gym and fitness studio operators are expecting things to get worse in the months ahead.

Local gym operator Marcus Goh, 48, said the fitness industry is on the verge of collapse.

“All of us have gone without income for two months and honestly, no one can survive on zero income.

“Even as our centres remain closed, we have to pay rent and pay our staff to come to the gym weekly to maintain the equipment.

“We need to maintain our equipment even though we are closed, ” he said at his gym in Bayan Lepas on Wednesday.

Another gym franchise operator, Eric Lim, who runs five branches in Penang, said many operators are now in deep financial trouble.

“For those of us with multiple branches, we are paying rent monthly and most of our outlets are subject to full rental.

“We all feel the pressure now, and some are considering whether to close or not to close.

“This is because a lot of (the premises’) owners do not really care whether their tenants can pay rental or not; they just want us to pay.

“For my gyms, it costs at least RM40,000 to pay for rental and salaries at each branch.

“I applied for a business loan to support my business but it seems that nothing is approved so far.

“And considering the zero income situation now, even if some of us want to change to a new business model, it is also hard, ” he said.

Fitness and dance studio founder Conny Lim said this was the first time they faced such a situation, since the business started 16 years ago.

“We have over 30 instructors and all of them are freelancers so we do not have to pay them.

“But we still have to pay rental of over RM40,000 per month.

“Our bigger problem is on membership as our members bought fitness packages for up to six months before this.

“A lot of the memberships have expired and we will have to extend their memberships.

“This means that even if we were to reopen after this, we cannot possibly collect fees from them for a few months and it will still be zero income for us.

“We understand that this is not their fault, but we did not predict the situation either, ” Conny said.

“We just hope that the government can at least prepare a timeline or let us know when the gyms and fitness centres can prepare for reopening.

“This uncertainty is really putting pressure on everyone.

“Our members are asking us when they can return to complete their membership, ” she said.

“But as we have no definitive directives from the government, we cannot give them a solid answer and can only tell them to wait, ” Conny added.

Penang Body Building Association president Tan Chee Kean said some operators are losing RM60,000 to RM70,000 monthly.

“There are 23 gym affiliates in Penang. Many freelance trainers have lost their jobs and we’re all suffering, ” he said.

Tan said the association had proposed standard operating procedures (SOP) to the state and hoped it would be adopted so that fitness centres and gyms can reopen.

“The SOP will focus on enabling social distancing in the gym and stricter data recording of those who arrive.

“Gyms will employ better hygiene practices and smaller gyms may need to remove some equipment usage to make more space, ” he said.

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