Curves Closes Thousands of Locations

While Curves fitness centers have been pretty easy to find in shopping centers all across the country, that has been rapidly changing in recent years. Since 2007, Curves International Inc. has closed thousands of its franchise locations.

Curves locations have shrunk by a third in the U.S., with 5,208 sites at the end of 2009, down from 7,748 at the beginning of 2007. More than 1,000 Curves chains closed in 2009, while just 35 new locations opened.

While franchisees and industry experts say that the closings are due to a failure to keep up with changing fitness trends (flexible hours, cheaper options), the company disagrees.

According to Curves President Mike Raymond, they are closing Curves locations as a way to “prune the system.” He puts much of the onus on the franchisees, saying that they got into the business for the wrong reasons.

“They were motivated primarily as investors rather than owners,” he says.

At the end of 2008, Curves was one of the most poplar fitness centers, with almost four million members across the globe. Gold’s Gym came in second with 3.5 million members.

Each Curves club features a circuit of strengthening and cardiovascular exercise equipment. Members are prompted by an audio tape to move from machine to machine for a 30-minute workout. Monthly dues range from $29 to $49, depending on the market.

Some club owners have complained that corporate ignored pleas to be more flexible with the format, including the 30-minute routine, and amenities offered, such as showers and exercise choices.

While there is always the recession to consider, potential business miscues seem to be a recurring theme among those in the know.

“They’re so constrained in their present model they don’t appear to be open to enough feedback from their franchisees,” says Tom Garmon, a broker with Fitness Industry Business Brokers.

(via: Wall Street Journal)

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