My latest article is on Urban Indy. It represents a sort of sequel to an article I wrote about 18 months earlier, where I followed a single Kroger supermarket on the south side of Indianapolis as it kept changing locations–four separate places in about twenty years, all new construction. And none of those locations were more than a mile from the previous–sometimes only a few hundred feet away. So Kroger was emptying out of its own real estate without really chasing a new market. Hopscotching. A tremendous waste. Why keep building and rebuilding?
But this is what successful chains do. And Kroger isn’t the only one.
The popular health club chain LA Fitness just closed a branch on the south side of Indianapolis as well, off of Southport Road. The HQ closed the Southport branch despite offering little advance notice that the company planned to do so–and no widespread indications that the corporation is shedding locations nationally. Or that this part of town is declining in terms of retail. Again, why?
The article explores the business practices that characterize the health and fitness industry, which in turn explain why successful chains like LA Fitness must remain attuned to short-lived and passing fads, versus advancements that are likely to elevate to features that customers expect out of every gym. The Southport location was about 15 years old–hardly obsolete but certainly faded, at least compared to new competitors that moved in within the last few years. It shouldn’t have been hard to LA Fitness to spruce up the Southport location and make it competitive. But instead it sits shuttered. And, coincidentally, directly across on Southport Road is another former gym–one that peaked in 1990 and still has the appearance of a retro fitness center.
There it is, up the hill, with the corrugated tin roof. What used to be Racquets Four hasn’t been a gym for at least 25 years. And health clubs across southside Indy keep hopscotching, just like Kroger. The new use of this former gym might surprise readers of Urban Indy more than those who read my own blog. Either way, check it out and feel free to offer your thoughts at either website.