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Planet Fitness Exploring Options for Company’s Future in New Hampshire Following Veto

A bill driven by Planet Fitness’ request to change a provision in New Hampshire’s tax law was vetoed by Governor Maggie Hassan on Monday.

Planet Fitness, which has filed for an initial public offering (IPO), has threatened to move its Newington-based headquarters out of state if the law is not changed.

“Like many others, I am disturbed by the process that brought this bill to my desk,” Hassan said in a statement. “It was passed at the last moment, with no public hearing before the vote.”

Hassan said she remained open to similar legislation as part of negotiations with lawmakers to end the state’s impasse over the state’s budget. Hassan vetoed an $11.3 billion state spending plan in June over reductions in the state’s two largest business taxes. The impasse is expected to linger into the fall, according to the Union Leader.

Planet Fitness said it is “disappointed” in the veto but is “hopeful” Hassan and state lawmakers can work together to resolve the state’s budget that incorporates the substance of House Bill 550 in the coming weeks.

“As a company founded in New Hampshire more than 23 years ago, we would like to stay in New Hampshire, which is why we are committed to this issue and urge both sides to continue to make changes to this law a priority for business and job growth in the state,” Planet Fitness Director of Public Relations McCall Gosselin said in a statement. “That said, as our state leaders work to pass a comprehensive budget, we are working with our advisors and board of directors to explore all options regarding the company’s future in the state.”

Hassan, in her statement, expressed concerns about how the tax cut would affect New Hampshire’s current budget and future budgets without addressing how the state would pay for it. Hassan said she hopes legislative leaders will return to the table and negotiate in good faith a compromise for the state budgets.

“In the meantime, however, we cannot continue to enact business tax reductions without transparently and honestly paying for them in budget,” Hassan said. “For this reason, I have vetoed HB 550.”

Planet Fitness lobbied lawmakers to change the step-up provision in the state’s business profits tax beginning in May, four weeks before filing for its IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau and former New Hampshire Governor Craig Benson, a former Planet Fitness board member and current franchisee, supported an amendment to change the existing law in front of the Senate Finance Committee on May 28.

Under current law, a New Hampshire company is required to pay the state’s 8.5 percent business profits tax on its increase in value. Democratic Senator Dan Feltes has said the change proposed in House Bill 550 would cost New Hampshire $8 million in revenue.

The bill made its way through the legislative process in June. The Senate approved the bill on a party-line 14-10 vote on June 4, a negotiating committee approved the bill without Democratic support on June 17 and the House sent the bill to Hassan’s desk with a 202-145 vote.

The language in the vetoed bill would have given New Hampshire businesses two options on when to pay the business profits tax in the event of a sale or exchange. A company could declare its increase in value in its tax returns, pay the tax and be allowed a future deduction based on the company’s increase in value. If the company decided not to declare its increase in value on tax returns, the future deductions would not apply.

The chance of overriding Hassan’s veto may be slim since all of the votes passed strictly on party lines and the Republicans do not have a two-thirds majority in either the House or the Senate.

Planet Fitness, which ranked No. 7 on Club Industry’s Top 100 Clubs list in 2014, reported $279.8 million in total revenue for 2014. It operated 976 clubs as of March 31 and has 154 employees at its Newington headquarters, according to its IPO registration statement.

Planet Fitness’ IPO date, number of shares to be offered and the price per share have yet to be determined.

Read the original article on Club Industry.

How Free Bagels and No Frills Made Planet Fitness King

Planet Fitness may be one of the strangest gym chains on earth. Decorated in purple-and-yellow, the gym stocks a plastic jug of free Tootsie Rolls and hosts free “bagel mornings” and “pizza nights” every month. To combat “gymtimidation,” trainers will sound a blaring siren if a member grunts or drops a weight, which they call a “lunk alarm.”

Yet the fitness giant, with its 7 million members, has quickly become one of America’s fastest-growing gym chains, doubling its number of franchises since 2012 and opening its 1,000th gym in D.C. this month. A stock-market debut later this year is expected to value the business at more than $2 billion.

While fitness trackers like the Fitbit and Apple Watch squabble over new users, America’s $33 billion fitness-club industry is looking more buff than ever. U.S. gym membership has climbed 5 percent since 2010, to an all-time high of 53 million members last year, industry data show. Analysts expect revenue will keep climbing 4 percent every year through 2020.

As one of the biggest beneficiaries of the country’s growing health craze, Planet Fitness seemed to tap a nerve among amateur exercisers with its $10-a-month rates and promise of a “Judgement Free Zone”: In financial filings, the gym says it offers “a welcoming, non-intimidating environment … where anyone – and we mean anyone – can feel they belong.”

But even pricier, swankier gyms are benefiting from a nationwide wave of adults spending more of their disposable income on slimming down. SoulCycle, the stationary-bike studio chain that charges about $34 for a 45-minute “spin session,” has hired bankers to help set up an initial public offering for later this year.

The chains have begun to trade on their prestige outside of the workout, with SoulCycle running a clothing line that sells $54 tank tops and $118 sweatpants. Equinox, the high-end New York gym chain, is planning to expand with a 300-room, $850 million “luxury lifestyle” hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Even after decades of treadmill farms and workout videos, the fitness industry remains wide open. The country’s 50 biggest gym chains control only a third of the market, which includes more than 34,000 health clubs nationwide, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. And the opportunity is huge: 80 percent of American adults aren’t members of any gym, the industry group said.

That’s largely because a staggering number of Americans are dangerously unhealthy. About 83 million Americans, or about 28 percent of the country, said they didn’t do a single physical activity last year — not even bowling, fast walking or stretching — the highest level of “totally sedentary” adults since 2007, a survey by the Physical Activity Council released in April said.

Planet Fitness started as a small fitness club in Dover, N.H., in 1992 and it started franchising a decade later, slashing membership prices to compete with bigger chains, and focusing on first-time gym-goers more than fitness geeks.

The chain is now largely owned by TSG Consumer Partners, the private-equity buyout giant that also holds big stakes in Vitaminwater, Pabst Blue Ribbon and cookie company Famous Amos.

Far from the amenity-rich offerings of traditional health clubs and the hardcore cult culture of CrossFit, Planet Fitness stuck out for being no-frills and cheap to run. The chain offers virtually no perks, like fitness classes or babysitting, and the franchises tend to open in the echoing hulks of closed big-box retailers, helping franchise owners save money on rent.

It’s also open to members at bargain-basement prices. The $10 monthly fee is far cheaper than the industry average of $46 a month, making it easy for gym hopefuls to join and remain a member — even if they end up mostly staying away. (Planet Fitness members have gained a reputation for showing colorful ways to use the machines.)

Planet Fitness’s stock-market debut, which the company expects will help it raise $100 million, is far from the only big deal in big-box fitness. Life Time Fitness, which pulled in about $1.3 billion in revenue last year at its 113 North American gyms, agreed in March to be bought by private-equity investors in one of the year’s biggest leveraged buyouts, a deal worth more than $4 billion.

The chains are benefiting from public marketing campaigns aimed at fighting obesity, growing consumer trends toward healthier food and the hype surrounding fitness trackers that offer calorie counts and by-the-numbers results.

But the big chains are increasingly facing resistance from the rise of small yoga studios and fitness boutiques, which can be opened for cheap in small spaces and often charge pricey rates from fitness-minded urbanites seeking the status of a unique workout.

One high-end yoga studio that opened earlier this year in San Francisco, Ritual, offers candlelit sessions to bass-heavy jams like Ginuwine’s “Pony,” and each class ends in a head massage. The 1,000-square-foot studio fits 16 sweating customers, co-owner Brittany Blum told the Associated Press, and even at $25 a session “it’s packed in there.”

Some big-box gyms have sought to model themselves after the underdog. Town Sports International Holdings, which runs city-specific fitness centers like the New York Sports Clubs, last year launched a class-based concept called BFX Studio (for “Boutique Fitness Experience”). Still, in February, the company said it was exploring a sale or other strategic alternatives.

Ultimately, Planet Fitness’s biggest draw may be its openness to a crowd the fitness world long lived without. The chain has been a sponsor of NBC’s weight-loss reality show, “The Biggest Loser,” for four years, and even served the series’s “approved snack,” Fit Popcorn, at its gyms during the premiere. “If you’re going to be bored in front of the TV,” a gym Facebook account once posted, “you might as well also be on a treadmill.”

Read the original article on The Washington Post.

Protect Your Business from Hefty Obamacare Fines

Beginning July 1, 2015, the IRS will begin penalizing employers who reimburse their employees’ purchase of individual health insurance policies. If an employer continues to reimburse employees for purchasing health insurance on their own, that practice could garner penalties of $100 per employee per day, up to $500,000. The IRS, through sub-regulatory guidance, stated that this type of reimbursement violates the Obamacare annual cap on health insurance benefits.

This regulatory decision significantly decreases employers’ ability to assist employees with health insurance costs. NFIB is fighting to protect business owners from these catastrophic penalties and is working to reinstate flexibility in benefit offerings.

Read the original article on NFIB.

Capture the Power of Small Group Training for Better Retention at Your Fitness Facility

Small group training is one of the most powerful tools for club operators to engage members in their fitness journey. Intimate, instructor-led classes give members the focused knowledge and skills they need to reach their goals. When members feel like they are making progress, they are more likely to be satisfied with their club, visit more often and maintain or renew their memberships. It’s no wonder operators are hopping on the small group training bandwagon.

Some of today’s most common small group sessions use equipment, such as functional training units. They can focus on circuit-type workouts or delve into specific skills, including Pilates and kettlebells, or they delve into goals, such as ski conditioning. Classes are typically held on the perimeter of the facility or in private rooms.

“Group personal training continues to make our annual ranking of top worldwide fitness trends,” said Michael C. Harper, associate director of education at The Cooper Institute, Dallas. “It gives trainers creative ways to package their sessions and market themselves, while exercisers benefit from one-on-one personal training but at a lower cost and often more efficient duration.”

The specialized nature, seasonality and location of classes, however, can make it tough to attract new exercisers and sustain attendance year-round. This is leading savvy operators to bring classes to the cardio floor, the most consistently utilized part of the club. By making sessions more visible, staff can pique the interest of more members.

One of the biggest upsides of small group cardio training classes is it does not require an investment in new equipment, so trainers can use the equipment that their clubs already have. Equipment does not typically need to be moved around and around. Four to six pieces are all that is needed.

To develop programming, operators are advised to bring in equipment coaches to refresh staff on training techniques and important features.

There’s no question classes held in a facility’s main hub bring a wave of energy. This creates interest in the club, classes and the instructors. Classes can vary in duration, but many operators find that classes that run several weeks give the best chance to connect with members and produce the results that ensure exercisers will come back for more.

“Small group training is excellent for reaching more exercisers with less staff,” Harper said. “It provides greater utilization of equipment so that exercisers know how to get more out of a workout in a shorter time frame. It’s also a way for operators to distinguish their facility from the competition.”

Operators starting small group cardio training are encouraged to offer a variety of courses that can be taken sequentially or at random to jump-start or improve an exerciser’s routine. Personalized and progressive experiences are a great way to retain members throughout their fitness journey.

Through class diversity, operators send the message that expert-led training is not just for athletes or those under doctor’s orders to begin working out. The training is for anyone who wants to have a different experience, reach new goals or get better results.

The small group setting also creates opportunities for instructors to tailor workouts to the individual exercisers in each class. This helps each student walk away with an arsenal of new techniques and tips they can take into their personal workouts.

The Mission Valley YMCA in San Diego was one of the first to extend small group cardio training to its approximately 30,000 members. Some of that training occurs on cardio equipment.

“Members love participating in expert-led workouts that help them realize their fitness goals, while trainers feel more empowered by helping members experience a completely new and different workout on a unique piece of equipment,” said Alex Ciambrone, fitness director at Mission Valley YMCA.

The classes are an effective way to bring independent cardio exercisers together into a community that shares the same interests. Exercisers are more likely to look forward to their next visit and feel an increased sense of accountability for their workouts by meeting peers and bonding with staff.

The advantages of small group cardio training are too big to ignore for operators. Having happy, engaged members in a central location is the best advertisement for your facility.

Read the original article at Club Industry.

Fitness Options Added for Churchill Jockeys

Planet Fitness Louisville and Churchill Downs announced April 28 that enhanced fitness options for the jockeys who compete at the racetrack will be added.

The fitness partnership includes a completely renovated on-track fitness facility in the jockeys’ room called the “Jockey Fitness Club presented by Planet Fitness, with state-of-the-art cardio and strength equipment identical to that found in the eight Louisville, Southern Indiana, and Elizabethtown Planet Fitness clubs, according to a release.

“We are honored that Churchill Downs put their trust in Planet Fitness to support the fitness needs of its jockeys,” said Rick Kueber, who along with his brother, David, leads the local Planet Fitness franchise group. “These world-class athletes deserve the best as they condition their bodies.”

In addition, the jockeys each receive a complimentary membership to the new Planet Fitness at Central Station near Churchill Downs.

“Physical fitness is vital to these athletes as they meet the day-to-day rigors of Thoroughbred racing,” said Churchill Downs racetrack president Kevin Flanery. “Giving them access to first-class fitness facilities is very important to us.”

Read the original article on BloodHorse.com.