When the pandemic hit in March of 2020 and the lockdowns began in earnest, the owners of D1 Training gym in Little Rock didn’t know what to expect. Compounding their concern, they were preparing to open a second location, that one in Rogers in Northwest Arkansas.
Schools and businesses shut their doors under a state mandate, but when D1 Training opened at its Rogers location in June of 2020, and its Little Rock gym reopened, the unexpected happened.
“We grew faster than ever,” Todd Farnsworth, D1 Training franchisee, said in a recent Zoom interview. “People were ready to get out and move.”
Now Farnsworth and his business partner Steve Snider are looking to expand even further. They plan to add gyms in the Northwest Arkansas cities of Bentonville and Fayetteville. The first location is expected to open in about a year and the second in about 18 months. The partners are still looking for the proper location in both cities.
IHRSA, a nonprofit group that represents the global health and fitness industry, in its 2021 report, projects the health and fitness industry in the United Sates lost $20.4 billion in 2020, a year after it generated an all-time high revenue of $35 billion. The drop is nearly 60%.
There is an opportunity for gyms as people return to their normal routines, the group said in its 2021 IHRSA Media Report.
“The permanent closure of 17% of clubs in the U.S. — and as high as 40% – 50% in some countries — has left a large segment of displaced members seeking new alternatives,” the report notes. “Many surviving clubs have already seen significant increases in membership, outpacing pre-pandemic numbers.”
Snider said, the gym’s fitness philosophy is simple — to train its members like athletes who are dedicated to a sport or their own fitness goals. He said the training regimes are focused on scholastic sports, elite programs like college sports or the demands of adult fitness.
Farnsworth said the programs are individually tailored, but they are typically taught in a class format. Personal, one-on-one training is also available.
“Every time you walk into the building, you’re coached,” Farnsworth said.
Snider opened the Little Rock location in 2008, which was one of D1’s first locations. Farnsworth joined the ownership team in 2014. The pair recently secured the new two-unit franchise agreement with D1 Training for their expansion.
Nashville-based D1 Training was founded 2001 by former NFL player Will Bartholomew. It has 50 locations nationwide, began franchising in 2017 and as awarded more than 165 territories over the past three years.
According to the International Franchise Association 2021 Economic Outlook for Franchising, a report by FRANdata released in March, if covid-19 continues to ebb, the franchising industry will have recovered to near 2019 levels in most key metrics, including business growth, employment, economic outlook and the sectors contribution to gross domestic product. FRANdata is an independent research and advisory company focusing on companies that use the franchise business model, according to its website.
The report predicted that more than 26,000 franchised businesses will open in 2021. By year’s end the sector will employ 8.3 million workers, a gain of about 800,000 new jobs. Most of the new jobs will be in the retail, food and service industries where workers were hard-hit during the covid-19 pandemic.
The number of franchise businesses in the personal service segment in 2021, which includes gyms, was projected to be 113,907, up 3.5% for 2020’s estimated 110,050. Employment in the segment was projected at 524,450, up 10.2% from the projected 475,580 for 2020.
D1’s Snider and Farnsworth said their new gyms will be similar to the Rogers and Little Rock operations, but they’ll likely be slightly smaller. They said they were looking for just the right spot for the two new gyms.
Of lessons learned during the pandemic, the pair were quick to answer.
“It made us so thankful for our clients,” Snider said.
Bryson Terry works out with coach Jim Ed Reed at D1 Training.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)