The threat of ‘pay as you go’ gyms: How to encourage traditional gym membership sign-ups over no-contract memberships

How to encourage gym membership sign-ups with the increasing popularity of ‘pay as you go’ gyms

Whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or a complete beginner, most people know what to expect when they sign-up for a traditional gym membership. You sign that dotted line (often after completing a free trial), pay a fixed amount each month, and voila; you’re now free to take advantage of the classes and facilities your chosen gym or fitness club offers.

This method of paying a monthly membership for a certain amount of time is one that works perfectly well for most people, and many are happy to make the commitment to their fitness by doing so. After all, if you’re paying a fixed amount to use your gym’s facilities every month, you’ll be more inclined to complete regular workouts and attend more fitness classes. However, with longer working hours and jam-packed social lives taking precedence, the demand for flexibility when you exercise has increased. As a result, ‘pay as go’ gym passes have risen in popularity over the years.

Scott Hunt, the owner and founder of Fitness Enhancement proffers “Pay as you go is dated and ill-effective, as is evidenced by the small amount Gyms that offer it. As a Gym owner, I thrive on recurring revenue and it’s critical for most Gyms to be successful. Assuming the Gym is run ethically, as opposed to hoping people keep paying and not attending, it increases customer satisfaction, member results and of course profits for the business. All whilst decreasing the paperwork and hassle of pay as you go!”

According to statistics, consumer spending on gym memberships increased by 44% in the UK between 2014 and 2015, and this was attributed to the growing popularity of budget gyms that offer increased flexibility in regards to their memberships. So, with the new ‘pay as you go’ gym model allowing gym-goers to just pay for the facilities they use (as and when they use them, and without the contract), it’s not surprising that this trend has continued into 2017. Unfortunately, this poses a threat to gyms and fitness clubs as this is causing them to miss out on people signing up for more traditional monthly and yearly memberships.

So, what steps can you take to encourage people to sign-up for traditional gym memberships?


As we’ve already explained, one of the main advantages of signing up for a monthly gym membership, rather than joining a pay as you go gym, is that you’ll be far more motivated to attend workout sessions and classes if you’re automatically paying to use your gym’s facilities each month. With pay as you go gyms allowing you to just pay for one-off classes and sessions, it’s far easier to tell yourself that you’ll just go tomorrow instead, and keep putting this off until tomorrow turns into next week, and the week after that (and the week after that…). This makes it even more difficult to reach your fitness goals.

Additionally, by regularly attending the same gym or fitness club, it’s easier to build a relationship with that location’s trainers, and they can work with you to set realistic goals, as well as offer all the support you need to achieve them. Not only that, but if you use Direct Debit to pay for your membership, you don’t need to worry about paying every time you want to exercise; you can simply sign-in and go!

Now, it’s all well and good being aware of the benefits of gym memberships, but as a gym owner, how can you ensure people are aware of them? Shout about them through your website, post about them on social media, put up posters in your gym, and make sure your personal trainers are always on-hand to offer advice on workouts, meal plans, and setting goals to your clients.

In addition to this, one of the easiest and most effective ways of increasing both new gym membership sign-ups and your customer retention rate is by offering incentives. For existing members who are due to renew their contract, this could be by offering a percentage off the cost of their renewal. To attract new members, offer deals when they sign-up for a membership, such as a free session with a personal trainer, or getting the first month of membership free. The new sign-up page for clubs and gyms that use Ashbourne Management will also enable you to sell products such as t-shirts and water bottles at a reduced rate when gym-goers take out a new membership.

Finally, the reason that pay as you go gyms have gained so much traction in recent years is due to the fact that it’s flexible; you only pay for the sessions and classes you attend. So, what do you need to do to encourage more gym membership sign-ups? Offer increased flexibility to your members.

One way you can do is by offering classes at various times of the day, as this will ensure you’re able to cater to those that work long or awkward hours, or busy parents that need to fit their exercise around caring for their family. However, another thing to consider is offering flexible memberships. Although your members will still be tied into a monthly contract, you could offer a reduced rate that’s based on the facilities the individual person wants to use. For example, one membership type could include just the use of the gym, while another could also include classes and use of the pool. This is a sure-fire way to compete with budget gyms, as well as pay as you go contracts.

Yvonne Walker from HR With Ease shares her own experiences of changing gyms. She says: “My greatest considerations when changing gyms were cost and availability. My previous gym had limited classes and was only open at certain hours, and this was for quite a high weekly amount. My new gym doesn’t have classes but has far better equipment, is less than half the price and is open 24/7. A win for me!”

If you offer free trials of other facilities outside of this contract, you may even inspire them to sign-up for the full membership when it comes to renewing their contract, or you could even offer customers the chance to renew early (without fee) if they do decide that they want to switch to a full membership later on. This leaves all options open, which will appeal to a new generation of gym-goers who may be more hesitant to make the commitment from the get-go!

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