Bounce Back Series: How Brighton gym TheBox kept its nerve and its members by shifting online overnight
In another Bounce Back article focusing on the gym sector, we speak to TheBox co-founder and gym owner Helen Shalcott on how the innovative boutique gym is keeping clients fit at home and primed to get back to the gym post-lockdown.
TheBox is a boxing-inspired gym and workout space that has gone from strength to strength. Before COVID-19 hit the gym sector hard, the outlook for the future was looking very positive, says TheBox co-founder and gym owner Helen Shalcott. And this made the timing of the lockdown frustrating, to say the least.
"Our financial position was sound," Helen says. "We felt like it had finally got the stage where we weren't watching the pennies. We could buy new kit and add new classes to the timetable. Membership numbers were strong and increasing steadily, month by month."
Helen says the business's financials were strong enough at the start of the year for cash flow not to be a major issue. However, that situation for gym owners across the world changed dramatically as the COVID-19 situation unfolded. Helen explains they’re monitoring sales week-by-week but it can feel scary with so much uncertainty.
“Obviously, we halved our pricing so straight away that had an impact on sales,” she says. “If we keep all of our members, we could probably break even. But we have lost members because people are losing their jobs and they're not going to other gyms. So we've been making a small loss. We can fund that for a few months, but it's a big question."
Fortunately, the strength of its customer base meant shifting direction was straightforward in terms of keeping membership subscriptions.
"Our members are a pretty gung-ho bunch of people who wanted to train up until when they were told they were not allowed to train," Helen says.
When lockdown happened, the gym acted quickly. The first thought was to keep providing customers with what they needed - classes. Helen explains that before lockdown, they were running 45 classes a week in the gym. In lockdown, that dropped to 17 classes a week.
"The vibe we were getting from customers wasn't that they were going to cancel memberships," she says. "It was, are you still going to be open? Can we train outside? We want to keep training."
There have been two positives Helen and other gym owners take from the situation that will better the fitness industry into the future.
"This is forced us to go online, which I think is something thing that we've been talking about for three years. We've done that, so that's good. It's made me realize our values in business are more important than ever because that's helped us make a lot of decisions."
So, what advice does Helen have for any business owner needing to shift their business model overnight?
"Hold your nerve," Helen says. "I know it's easier said than done but try and stay as chilled as you can. Hold your nerve and trust the judgments you're making. Trust what you're doing."
Helen Shalcott spoke to Futrli CEO Hannah Dawson and COO Helen Cockle as part of the Futrli Bounce Back series. Watch the full interview below.
Watch the full webinar to discover:
- Exactly how TheBox managed the process of shutting the gym down at short notice
- How the gym managed to keep so many of its members on board and engaged in the business
- The No.1 lesson that Helen learned as a result of going into lockdown and everything that transpired
- How TheBox is a stronger brand because of how it dealt with the COVID challenge