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What You Need to Know About Gen Z Before It’s Too Late


Why will Gen Z and those immersed in youth culture wait in line for hours at Supreme for a new product to drop? Because they want to be in the line. The line is the new community and those who wait in line earn a seat at a very elite table. For brands to succeed with Gen Z, they need to create a sense of belonging or their competition will.” — Gregg L. Witt

Let’s start with telling you how this blog ends. It is critical to your future success that you create community and connection where and when you can. Investing today’s capital without also weaving an intentionally designed experience into tomorrow’s plans is a recipe for mediocrity or worse.

We have an opportunity as YMCAs, JCCs and sport-specific facilities to pivot our approach, and drive what fitness looks like in the industry tomorrow. According to the most recent IHRSA consumer report, our facilities attract a larger percentage of Generation Z than any other facility segments. Gen Z is already in our doors. It’s incumbent that we shift from yesterday’s practices to tomorrow’s opportunities.

Here is what the IHRSA data is telling us:

  • The only generation for which small group training penetration exceeds that of personal training is Generation Z. 
  • Members in the 18 to 24-year-old and 25 to 34-year-old brackets engage in yoga overwhelmingly more than other age groups.
    • Yoga 33%
    • Hiit 28%
    • Dance, step and other choreography 20%
    • Cross training-style workout 16%
  • Generation Z and Millennials are drawn primarily to boutique studios 60 to 70% of boutique studio membership comes from these two generations.

We all need to stop using the mantra that youth are looking for experiences. What we should be saying is youth are looking for “shared experiences.”

Here is where we are as an industry today:

  • “A recent study by Neilson, titled the ‘Total Audience Report,’ indicates that, as of the summer of 2017, Millennials comprised approximately 22% of the U.S. population and Generation Z 26% of the population. This is in comparison to Generation X, at 20%, and Baby Boomers, at 24% and fading. Contrary to these numbers, the fitness facility industry as a whole remains grounded in serving mostly those of Generation X, while underserving Generation Z and Millennials.” IHRSA consumer report
  • Members of boutique studios pay, on average, $35 to $40 a month more than members of commercial fitness-only, nonprofits and YMCAs and JCCs, despite using their fitness facility less often.

In a recent Wall Street HALO industry analysis (that I’m not permitted to site), middle market facilities that have the square footage to provide a dedicated boutique experience at a monthly rate that is, in some instances, significantly less than outside offerings are not only surviving the boutique crush, but doing well because of it.

I believe the data above is self-evident and telling us exactly where we need to go.


Jason R. Stowell is the division director of fitness and wellness for JCC of Greater Pittsburgh. He is an award-winning fitness leader with over 20 years of successful experience providing strategic planning, talent management, and expert-level sales training in the health and fitness industry. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.


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