CBC’s Data-Free Deep Dive: Peloton, Soul Cycle Suffering

A spin instructor on a bike with the words "got any data?"

August brought more bad news for Peloton and Soul Cycle.

The former company announced on Aug. 12 that it was hacking jobs, raising prices on equipment and shuttering some stores.

About a week later, Soul Cycle closed 25 percent of its cycling studios, including the only location in Canada.

In response, a host of fitness-industry experts offered their opinions in a CBC.ca article titled “How the Luxury Fitness Bubble Popped as the Pandemic Wore On.”

Here are a few lines from that article: “The fitness industry is between a rock and a hard place, with two previously reliable business models floundering at this stage of the pandemic. While in-person studios are still recovering from government shutdowns, at-home fitness brands are losing clientele while people favour affordable brick-and-mortar gyms and fitness centres.” 

I can spot a few errors in that analysis.

First, I don’t think the at-home fitness model was all that reliable. I think it took hold during the pandemic, when governments closed gyms and fitness options were limited. But I’ve seen mountains of used at-home equipment at garage sales for decades, so I don’t think an 18-month, COVID-caused spike in at-home fitness suggests Peloton, MIRROR and others truly represented a “reliable business model.”

Second, the article suggests consumers “favour affordable brick-and-mortar gyms and fitness centres.” We aren’t given any stats to back that up. That statement demands data, and if the author can’t tell us exactly how revenue in cheap, access-only gyms has increased as Peloton and Soul Cycle suffered, the line should be deleted.

Instead of data, we get a vague quote from Natalia Petrzela, a professor who wrote “Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America’s Exercise Obsession”:

“I think that explains the kind of popularity at the lower end of the consumer fitness market in terms of brick and mortar,” Petrzela told CBC.ca. “More people are going back to the gym in person, but it is the lower-end businesses that are thriving.”

“Kind of popularity,” “lower end,” “more” and “thriving”—we don’t have a single shred of data to add any weight to the analysis. Nothing.

In contrast, I’ll offer just a bit of early, raw, unanalyzed data from our State of the Industry survey (you can still fill it out here): The vast majority of gym owners in our survey said their revenue and profitability have returned to pre-COVID levels.

Here’s the really interesting part: The vast majority of survey respondents are selling coaching at premium rates. They are not what you might label “affordable brick-and-mortar gyms and fitness centres.”

You’ll have to forgive me for holding back hard numbers right now. The survey is ongoing, and Two-Brain hasn’t analyzed the numbers. But that analysis will start in a few days, and we’ll provide a huge package of hard data in December. (If you fill out the survey today, you’ll get the analysis before anyone else.)

My point: It’s one thing to write an article about the fitness industry and offer data-free analysis. It’s quite another to collect data, analyze it and offer conclusions gym owners can actually use to make decisions.

We’re taking the latter path. It’s expensive and time consuming. But it’s worth it.

In December, we’ll be able to tell you exactly what’s happening in the fitness industry. You won’t see the words “kind of” or any vague terms. You’ll get hard numbers that allow you to improve your business.

Until then, please take the news articles and “expert opinions” you see with a grain of salt. No data? No dice.

And please take the time to fill out the State of the Industry survey before the end of Sept. 1. Your data will allow us to draw the firm conclusions that are currently absent from the fitness industry. The survey will be closed Sept. 2.

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