Yearly, I publish the Clubs in Town and Country publication. It has been around almost 60 years and the last five have been the most volatile for the club industry. Last week, I spoke before club managers and controllers in Hilton Head and Atlanta and a month before that in Philadelphia. While 2012 does seem to be improving, a number of issues seem common among the clubs.
The first is that the recovery is uneven both in the economy and in clubs specifically. The first tier clubs have recovered and are close to where they were five years ago. However, too many private clubs still exist. The second tier clubs have not been so lucky. In many ways, they are their own worst enemies. They reduce the initiation fees dramatically and try to poach members from each other. There is a finite number of potential members and it seems that all the clubs want them.
Second, a trend seems to be developing that members are joining the club as social, or some other limited category, members rather than as full. Even more alarming is that existing full members are looking to drop back to a lower category. While it is nice to have new members, dues revenue suffers.
Finally, cost cutting is reaching its limit. Boards do not want to raise dues sufficiently to cover the cost of providing the services that members say they want. Add to this, the increased cost of fuel and food and the anticipated additional increases because of nationwide droughts and you have the potential for further pressures.
However, on the bright side, most clubs have seen an improvement over the last few years.
What are you seeing at your club? Are you getting more members that are paying less in dues? What great ideas do you have to control cost and still provide superior service?