Gyms grateful for support measures amid difficult times

SINGAPORE – The latest round of government reliefs measures, including wage subsidies from the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) and rental rebates from the Rental Support Scheme, have been a welcome announcement for gyms and fitness studios islandwide as they battle to stay afloat.

True Group, which operates 12 gyms mainly in shopping malls and welcomed between 300 to 600 users on a daily basis before the pandemic, saw its revenue drop by almost 70 per cent last year but is “doing our best to keep going”, says director Sean Tan.

The company has close to 270 staff, about 180 of whom will benefit from the latest round of measures.

True currently provides Zoom classes free of charge for its members while the outdoor group classes are $10 to $15. Its gym memberships range from $135 to $149 monthly.

While it has tried to pivot to outdoor and online classes – True conducts over 80 live Zoom classes and 75 outdoor classes weekly – Tan admitted that revenues from these classes are “a small fraction” of those before May 8, which was when tighter community measures were introduced and gyms were still fully open.

Last year after the circuit breaker, True Group received JSS support of 25 per cent, up to $1,150, of the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to each local employee up to March 2021. There were also rent waiver to offset four months of base rent.

It has also applied for Enterprise Singapore loans, which have a lower interest rate.

Tan, 51, said: “Our business has to restart after each lockdown, and we need time to rebuild our revenues. Our revenues don’t jump back to 100 per cent the moment we reopen.

“Support measures cover part of our operating costs, not loss of revenue. We commit to leases based on revenue projections made pre-Covid, and just having support from the Government does not mean that we will be able to afford paying our rentals, which is the largest component of our costs.”

Jasmine Chong, co-founder of yoga and barre outfit Lab Studios, is another trying her best to balance the books. To reduce costs, she has had to convert many of her full-time staff to work on a part-time or freelance basis and in recent months closed two outlets at Boon Tat Street and Raffles Place.

The studio has also pivoted to a subscription-based model, where students are able to access over 200 guided video workouts for a flat fee of $29 monthly.

This online service has done well of late. According to Chong, sign-ups have doubled since the start of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) on May 16.

Chong, 32, said revenue is currently at around 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, dropping from about 80 per cent prior to the current Heightened Alert period.

While ongoing restrictions do allow yoga studios to remain open, Chong chose to cancel all in-person classes across her four studios until June 13, to “do (their) part as a business to encourage everyone to stay home”.

Despite the setbacks, she remains hopeful about the future, and even sees opportunities for expansion in the market.

“We’re all in this together. Once the cases start to go down, we can all resume operations again,” she noted. “When that happens, we are looking forward to expanding our reach to a new residential community (in Holland Village), where we will be one of the first barre studios.”

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