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'People are coming back to the gyms' — along with in-home workouts, CEO explains

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Self Esteem Brands CEO Chuck Runyon joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the shift for more in-person workouts and fitness trends in 2022.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: The stay-at-home workout seems to be losing a little bit of its luster, just ask Peloton, which is now considering laying off workers and producing fewer bikes and treadmills. Here to talk about the shift to in-person workouts is Chuck Runyon, CEO of Self Esteem Brands, which owns Anytime Fitness gyms.

Chuck, good to see you. And I know that Anytime was one of the first 24-hour gyms, hence the name. You've got about 5,000 gyms, with about four million members. So I'm curious if there's anywhere in the world where your gyms are now back at pre-pandemic attendance.

CHUCK RUNYON: Yes, we have numerous regions around the world that are back to not only pre-COVID but above pre-COVID attendance. And our consumers are purchasing more in-home and in-club coaching services. So people are coming back to the gyms. You know, I've been in this industry a long time. And members want variety. They need guidance.

And sometimes you really want that from a human coach inside your club. But we still provide some in-home coaching as well. So it's not an either/or. It's a both.

- And so, I want to ask you. How do you think government policy is helping or hurting a return to in-person gym workouts, because, obviously, gyms were the hardest hit?

CHUCK RUNYON: Yeah, look, our industry was the first to close and the last to re-open. And this industry has suffered. And you know, we are working with lawmakers around the world to provide relief for this industry. And we have created a very safe environment. We play by all the rules. And so I think our industry has done a great job doing that.

But I think, you know, there needs to be a discussion about the long-term vaccine of better health and fitness. We've seen how this virus has affected people with underlying health conditions. So when COVID's gone, we really need to have a meaningful discussion about global health and about what we can do to incentivize physical activity and better nutrition. Because, ultimately, that is the best long-term vaccine.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Chuck, I know that you were in Washington, DC last month. You were appealing to lawmakers there to pass what's called the Gyms Act, which would provide the first, I guess, federal pandemic relief to club owners. Can you tell us where that legislation stands right now?

CHUCK RUNYON: Yeah, we are still working closely with lawmakers around the country. Look, 70% of the gym and studio industry is operated by small business owners. And as you know, this has been a very difficult climate. And they have provided direct relief for other industries. And again, as I mentioned, we were the first to close and the last to reopen. And so our industry also needs some relief.

So we're at work with lawmakers, making sure we can support small business owners who own gyms and studios and communities around the country, and provide those essential services that, again, people need not just now but long term for mental and physical well-being.

- And Chuck, then, how are you positioning yourself as people start to come back to the gym? I know you've launched a new platform, Real AF, tell us about that.

CHUCK RUNYON: Yes, we are excited to support our members wherever they are. So at home, at work, in the gym, we can literally now have a coach in their pockets. We want to provide them personalized guidance and a plan that really meets them where their lifestyle is at. So like we encourage, of course, to visit the club as often as they can.

But if they can't, we're going to provide the support and the tools, the motivation, so they can live a healthier life. We just recently purchased Stronger You, a digital nutrition company. So now we can give a more holistic support to our members. And that's what we obsess about.

I mean, we lie awake sleeping-- or lie awake at night thinking about how can we get our members healthier. And this can help us do it now and meet them on their terms.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And Chuck, I have a two-parter for you. I'm curious if you've had to raise membership prices at all during this challenging time. And then also, because you are 24 hours, are you seeing more people interested in going in those overnight hours when the club would be less populated?

CHUCK RUNYON: Yes. And Anytime Fitness has an advantage. Because we have smaller clubs and because we're open 24/7, we've been able to create an environment that is safer. So, you know, as we've come out of COVID, we've seen-- we've been more resilient than most other fitness brands in the sector.

And yeah, your first question is we have seen it depends really on the area of the world that you're in. But for the most part, we have reasons that, you know, to be quite bullish on, you know, where the fitness sector's going.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right. Chuck Runyon, CEO of Anytime Fitness, thanks so much for being with us today.