MacDonald’s had better watch out as Curves , the ubiquitous health club chain, marches towards 9,000 health clubs. Most people outside of the health club industry, would not know much about Curves, but they are now the 10th largest franchise company in the world and they’ve been trading for just 10 years! In the past year alone, they have been opening clubs at the rate of five per day…every day! So what is Curves? Well, it’s a franchise business model ,which means it’s a health club `in a box`, based on a 30-minute workout pitched only at women. It operates from a `micro` club no larger than 1,500 square feet – that’s just less than the size of three squash courts.
It’s an amazing success story for Gary Heavin, Curves’ Founder and CEO, whose initial health club failed after he had built up a small chain in the United States. However, I am still unclear about the robustness of the business model for franchisees. Even through premises and staff costs are reduced through the small-scale nature of the clubs, the biggest challenge and expense is member recruitment and retention – the bane of the health club industry. I would also be very interested to know the closure rate of failed units and the salaries that can be drawn by franchises for all their hard work. Perhaps, someone from Curves can enlighten me.