Curves succumbs to a double whammy of economic woes
The departure of exempt company employees from Bermudas shores, coupled with the continuing contraction of the economy, has claimed another business casualty.
Curves fitness studio for women, based in Gorham Road, Hamilton, will close its doors at the end of April after more than eight years in operation.
It has been hit by a double whammy, losing clients with connections to the international business sector who have moved from Bermuda, and seeing other members fall away because of the tougher economic times on the Island.
Manager Sharon Johnson started noticing a marked reduction in clients around 2009 as a number of exempt companies began relocating some of their operations overseas and reducing their on-Island workforce.
I lost their wives and the people they had brought down here. We also used to have a few of the women executives, she explained.
The state of the Islands economy, currently entering a fifth year of contraction, has also been a factor.
A lot of our membership are older ladies and a lot of them have had to leave because they have to support their children, who have lost their jobs, or their grandchildren.
Curves is part of the US-based fitness and weight-loss franchise. It opened for business on Gorham Road in December 2004. A month later Ms Johnson joined part-time and has worked there ever since. She became manager in 2007.
In the heart of the citys international business neighbourhood, looking out on the Ace and XL buildings across the road, Curves was well-positioned to attract the wives of exempt company employees. But then the economic picture started to change in the late 2000s.
According to Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons the number of jobs on the Island has fallen from around 40,000 to 35,000 in the last five years, and last year alone 700 jobs connected with the international business sector were lost.
Ms Johnson said: It was probably 2009 when we started to see people leaving in bigger numbers. Some of our members have joined Curves in the States. Wherever you go in the world you are able to transfer your membership.
Asked if newer types of fitness ventures, such as Cross Fit, may have impacted the business, Ms Johnson said she didnt believe so as it was aimed at a different clientele to Curves, whose members average age is between 50 and 55.
In a bid to halt its falling membership, Curves has waived its joining fee for the past year and a half. But that wasnt enough to turn things around and so, with less than 100 members still enrolled, the owners have decided to close the doors on April 30. The fixtures and fittings will be sold off.
Ms Johnson has searched for a suitable fitness studio where her members can transfer. She has made contact with the Body Fit gym.
I think it will be a good fit for the ladies. They [Body Fit] are leaning towards an older clientele, she said.
Since opening in 2004, Curves has never raised its monthly fee. Many of the women who are still members want to see it stay open and have tried all they can to keep things going.
Ms Johnson said she will find it hard when Curves is no more. She needs to find new work herself, but more than that she will miss the sense of companionship and camaraderie that the fitness studio members and staff have enjoyed.
Someone would come in with a problem and the other members would be able to help each other. For me it is going to be very hard. Im going to miss all the ladies, she said.
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