The fitness industry is struggling to survive with all the impacts that the pandemic has had. For months we have been fighting to stay open and work through restrictions, but with cases rising, it is a losing battle. The question becomes, what can the industry do to work effectively with government as part of the solution, and more importantly, what kind of financial relief can be sought?
In this video posted last week, I address the economic argument for why governments need to provide financial relief to the fitness industry. The reality is that without something, there are going to be more gym closures, which will have severe economic impacts both in the short and long term. Gyms closing now will not mean more gyms open up to fill the void, given the high capital costs to getting started and the old business model not working. This will mean a contraction in the number of gyms in the market, which will have two big impacts:
- Fewer places for fitness professionals to work
- Consequences for the health of Canadians
In the first instance, fitness professionals will have limited options on where they can apply their specialized skills, leading to increased unemployment and the need for job retraining. In the second instance, fewer places to work out may lead to more inactivity and a reduction in utilizing fitness as part of preventative healthcare. If less people are active, the impact on mental health, obesity, cardiac health, diabetes, etc, will be strongly felt.
The industry needs to understand what the government mandate is right now, and how we can work with the current top priorities including:
- Lowering the number of COVID cases
- Keeping people out of hospitals
- Keeping people working
The argument for financial relief for the industry speaks directly to this mandate. At the federal level, the industry needs a bailout to help compensate for the loss in revenues that was the result of mandatory closures and restrictions in the name of public health. At the provincial level, there needs to be an ‘ask’ for the funds to help gyms pivot their businesses to provide more digital and online solutions, such as virtual classes, training and workout programming.
This pivot will have hard costs including software, staff training and digital marketing, but would provide long-term benefits for the economy. If gyms can drive new revenues this way, it will keep more people employed. If they are able to engage more of the population than they did before the pandemic, it will help save on long-term health care costs. This is especially true with respect to comorbidities for COVID. If more Canadians are active, then they are less likely to catch or have severe effects from COVID, which will keep them out of hospitals.
This is the argument we need to make. We need to continue to push for rent and wage subsidies, direct financial relief at the federal level, and for financial aid in helping survive and evolve the business at the provincial level (which is their mandate). This is the best way to be a part of the solution and work with government to get through this pandemic and get more Canadians active.
Nick Corneil is CEO of Trainer Plus and head of the Fitness Industry Canada (FIC) Ontario Coalition. FIC has established provincial coalitions across Canada to advocate for the fitness industry. For more information, or to join a provincial coalition, visit www.ficdn.ca.