As its competitors continue to snatch up space around town, the local ownership group of a national gym brand is working out a growth plan of its own.
Two new Planet Fitness franchises are opening in the crowded Richmond gym market: one in Victorian Square Shopping Center on Hull Street Road and one in the forthcoming Eastgate Town Center in Henrico.
Bill Asbell, managing member and principal partner for the group that owns the local Planet Fitness franchises, said he plans to open the Southside location by the end of this year and the Henrico location next year.
The Victorian Square location is more than 19,000 square feet and was formerly home to a Kmart on the 11000 block of Hull Street Road. It will be next door to a Gabe’s retail spot.
The Henrico gym will take space in the new Walmart-anchored development that’s replacing the old Fairfield Commons mall.
Asbell, who with a different group owns the only other Planet Fitness in Richmond on Robious Road, also owns locations in Lynchburg, Roanoke and Fredericksburg.
Planet Fitness launched in 1992 and began franchising around 2003. It has more than 970 locations in 47 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. The company went public this month under the ticker symbol PLNT. Plans at Planet Fitness start at $10 a month with no long-term contracts.
Asbell said he plans to open a total of seven or eight Planet Fitness locations in Richmond. He said it costs about $1.3 million to open each gym.
Finding the right real estate has been a challenge as he’s looked to expand, Asbell said.
“In the last couple of years, boxes of square feet have been hard to come by,” he said. “Only recently has the commercial real estate market come back into play, at least for me.”
In taking on the Hull Street Road area, Asbell and his group will enter a competitive stretch that’s also home to a Gold’s Gym, American Family Fitness and other fitness brands. He said depending on the terms of their plans, Planet Fitness members will have access to both the Robious Road and Hull Street Road gyms.
“We will compete very well with other health clubs in that corridor,” Asbell said.
Competition among gyms has been heating up beyond the Southside, with a wave of new activity in recent years, particularly from the larger chains in the last 12 months. Crunch Fitness has two locations open and two more in the pipeline. Gold’s Gym is expanding its Fan location, and there’s talk of at least one other location in the city. YouFit has three locations open in Richmond.
Asbell said competition is just the nature of his industry.
“At this point in the game, so to speak, we don’t allow our competitors to influence whether or not we open a club,” he said. “You either have to be in the game or not be in the game, and I am in the game.”