Curves Falls Flat, Closes More Fitness Clubs

The popular women's health-club company closed 1,000 franchise locations in 2009.

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Curves, the popular health-club chain that caters to women, is on a diet. The fitness club that revolutionized the express workout has closed approximately one-third of its U.S. franchise sites since 2007, including 1,000 in 2009, in part due to conflict between the company and its franchisees.

The fitness club claims that some business owners bought the franchises for the wrong reasons, but franchisees say the company that started the 30-minute woman's workout has been unwilling to change with the times. There are now more than 5,200 Curves clubs nationwide, compared to more than 7,700 locations in 2007. The 30-minute woman's workout company added 35 new franchise locations, despite closing 1,000 clubs in 2009.

The original Curves in Harlingen, Texas, began in 1992 to provide a "supportive and comfortable atmosphere" for women typically uncomfortable working out in conventional gyms. Members receive personal attention in identifying goals and receive detailed progress reports after every workout.

The idea caught on quickly -- within a decade, Curves opened more than 6,000 locations. In 2008, Curves beat out Gold's Gym International. for the most popular international franchised gym, with more than 4 million members worldwide.

Customer retention became an issue at certain franchises, though, when no variety was added to the workout plan beyond the circuit routine. Curves points to its investments in new workout equipment to prove it's keeping up with the times.

The recession hasn't helped Curves, either. Monthly membership prices range from $29 to $48, but with unemployment at 9.5 percent in June, some consumers are cutting back on expenses like gym memberships.

Curves still turns a profit despite the drop in franchises. The company had a revenue of $84.1 million, with profits of $16.4 million, 2009.

Tags: buying a franchise, Curves health clubs, Curves locations, fitness clubs, franchises, News, womens fitness

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