"Engage with your members during closures," says Pure International Group's Colin Grant in IHRSA webinar
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"Engage with your members during closures," says Pure International Group's Colin Grant in IHRSA webinar

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Perception is reality – it was important that members could see cleaners walking around the clubs actively cleaning on a regular basis

In an IHRSA webinar presented on 18 March, Colin Grant, CEO of Pure International Group, has shared what he has learned from managing closures and member concerns across his 30+ South Asia clubs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pure International Group has clubs in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing, comprising both yoga studios and big box gyms.

During the webinar, which was free to both IHRSA members and non-members, Grant detailed the journey the group has been on since the coronavirus epidemic began in December 2019.

With its clubs in Shanghai and Beijing forced to close by the Chinese government, and unprecedented rates of membership termination and suspension across all other South Asian clubs, Grant said it has been a very emotional time.

He advised the leadership teams of gyms in other parts of the world now dealing with these issues to "take the emotion out and act calmly, and that will cascade through the organisation, both internally and externally."

"At the end of the day, it's our job to ensure we provide a safe and healthy environment for our employees, our staff and our colleagues, as much as all our members".

Practical measures that Grant recommended for those clubs still open centred around making members feel safe.

Early on, he said, "we made the decision to start ramping up our hygiene at a club level. We started increasing the presence of cleaners, and increased the number of hand sanitisation stations around the club. Perception is reality – it was important that members could see cleaners walking around the clubs actively cleaning on a regular basis".

"At the same time, we started communicating these measures to members, via social media and notices in the club."

As the virus tightened its grip on China, the Shanghai and Beijing clubs were mandated to close. In the locations that stayed open, Grant took further measures, which included taking every person's temperature upon entry, reducing the capacity of group exercise classes and promoting on social media and in-club the importance of strengthening the immune system with a healthy diet and exercise.

These measures were well received, said Grant. "Members thanked us for making them feel they were in a safe environment."

Grant, however, focused just as much energy on the closed clubs as the open ones. He stressed the importance of continuing to communicate with members during closures: "If anyone has closed clubs or ends up closing clubs, it's very important that you engage with your members during your closure."

"In our closed clubs in Shanghai and Beijing we had our PTs and yoga teachers send daily workouts through our official member app.

"Also, the yoga teachers, the sales team, the PTs and group ex instructors would constantly keep in touch with the members, making sure they knew we were here, even though the clubs were closed, and that they could do online training."

Although the clubs in Hong Kong and Singapore have stayed open, Grant told viewers that during the peak of the virus in those countries, membership terminations increased two-fold and there was a 10-fold increase in suspensions.

The biggest challenge during this time, Grant explained, was the pushback from members who believed they should be allowed to suspend their memberships for free.

"We didn't have the luxury of offering free suspensions," said Grant. "Our feeling was that we have to pay rent, salaries, etc, and we're staying open. And above all else we believe we're providing a safe environment."

Grant also impressed upon webinar viewers that "internal communication is very, very important".

"We started doing a daily call with the leadership team across all the sites," he said.

Pure Group also used the time during club closures to do internal training.

Finally, Grant acknowledged that for many countries, this experience for gym operators was just beginning.

"I'm aware that some of you are at different stages of this. It's evolving quickly. And what I've been through over the last three months, you guys might have to do over three weeks.

"It's a rollercoaster, be prepared. But the leadership needs to steady the ship and work together – bring your teams together."

The full webinar – 'Coronavirus Conversations Club Operations Part 1' – can be viewed at ihrsa.org.

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In an IHRSA webinar presented on 18 March, Colin Grant, CEO of Pure International Group, has shared what he has learned from managing closures and member concerns across his 30+ South Asia clubs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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