What keeps Curves in the fitness spotlight?

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Inside Franchise Business: Curves is a female-focused gym chainCurves was a pioneer when it opened in 1992 offering as a speedy fitness option a 30-minute full body workout specifically for women.

Little has changed about the core offer: a half-hour program equates to two circuits of hydraulic resistance equipment, 30 seconds at each station, with 30 seconds of recovery in between.

Curves has not stood still, however. Five years ago the global business introduced a new generation of machines all designed for the female body. The recovery breaks are now more prescribed, incorporating yoga elements for instance.

The programs can be undertaken at any time, starting from any machine. Personal trainers are available to coach users through the program, ensure correct and appropriate use of equipment, and encourage maximum effort.

Curves Australia GM Selina Bridges says the brand attracts many women who are fearful of or not attracted to traditional gym environments. “Curves is welcoming and safe. There is no judgement. We have customers from 13 to 90 years old, but most are 45-plus. That is slightly younger than a few years ago.”

Bridges says gym locations and the age of trainers play a significant role in attracting certain demographics. “Out research shows we can be successful in shopping malls and standalone sites in metro or regional areas. The rent will have a big part to play, and the owner is key. A franchisee needs a passion for health and wellbeing, and understand how to build a business.”

A recruitment process helps identify the right franchisees, say Bridges. Women are inevitably attracted to the franchise, but more couples are now embracing the the concept. “More husbands and wives coming in to the system, and we get a blend and different perspective.”

Bridges says owner-operators need to count a pay packet for themselves into their business plan. Fitness qualifications are not essential, but as part of the induction process franchisees undertake special training for qualifications, and Curves works with TAFE to fill in the gaps.

Personal trainers have a five- to 10-year career path laid out, says Bridges. “Our concentration is on helping our network grow, and the franchisees’ success comes from helping those who want to be engaged.

“We are always looking for new owners, but it is a slow burn process, six to nine months,” says Bridges. “A healthier network attracts organically. Our focus is internal, giving our clubs a stronger foundation.”

Royalties and fees from franchisees are ploughed back into the business to provide marketing, business, customer and system support.

Bridges cautions against franchise buyers aiming for high client numbers because these can accommodated only in a shopping centre, which attracts a high rent.

Curves does not become involved in property (site choice or lease negotiation), referring franchise buyers instead to a leasing expert. The starting investment price is $80,000, which includes a $40,000 franchise fee, training, the operating system and equipment. Flexible payment terms are available.

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