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Planet Fitness (PFIP LLC) is an American franchisor and operator of fitness centers based in Hampton, New Hampshire. The company reports that it has 2,039 clubs, making it one of the largest fitness club franchises by number of members and locations. There are locations across the United States as well as in other countries such as Canada, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Mexico. In 2019 the franchise expanded to Australia. It markets itself as a "Judgment Free Zone" that caters to novice and casual gym users and is reported to be the nation’s fastest growing fitness center franchise.

History[]

A Planet Fitness location in Revere, Massachusetts in November 2012 Planet Fitness locations in the United States

In 1992, Michael and Marc Grondahl acquired a struggling Gold's Gym franchise in Dover, New Hampshire. They closed that original location, and in 1993 they opened a new location named Coastal Fitness. They brought on a third partner, current CEO Chris Rondeau, and in 1994 they changed their name to Planet Fitness.

Michael Grondahl bought the Planet Fitness trademark from Rick Berks in 2002. Rick Berks had started his own Planet Fitness gym in 1993 in Sunrise, Florida, and eventually expanded it to three clubs. A former Broward Sheriff’s Office detective, he owned and operated a Gold's Gym franchise. Berks had been catering to the bodybuilding culture in his Gold’s Gym. “I decided I didn’t want to deal with that crowd, so that’s when I opened the original Planet Fitness club in Sunrise, Florida, in 1993.” The name came from his daughter’s school project, “Fitness Planet.” The new model was an effort to provide a fitness hub for everyday people. Berks later went on to open the first Youfit Health Club in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Rondeau and the Grondahls recognized that there was a greater opportunity to serve a much larger segment of the population if they changed the gym environment, both in attitude and format, by creating a non-intimidating, low-cost model. Planet Fitness became known as the "Judgement Free Zone," aimed more at the average user than the bodybuilder type of fitness enthusiast. They also dramatically reduced prices to compete against better-known brands. This low-cost business model focuses on the needs of occasional or first-time health club members, rather than more experienced members, and depends on many members rarely showing up. According to a Planet Money episode from 2014, "half of the Planet Fitness members don't ever go to their gyms."

As part of their effort to create a non-intimidating environment, Planet Fitness has alienated many serious weight lifters. Some bodybuilders and weight lifters have found the way they're portrayed in Planet Fitness TV commercials to be offensive, and the way they're treated in Planet Fitness gyms to be "quite possibly discriminatory." Planet Fitness has been criticized for prohibiting certain weightlifting exercises–such as deadlifts and clean-and-jerks–that many experts believe are highly effective. In 2010, Men's Health magazine called Planet Fitness "the worst gym in America."

As early as March 2015, the "Judgement Free Zone" policy has been expanded to allow trans women to use the women's locker room. The policy states that "members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity."

In 2003, Planet Fitness opened its first franchised location in Florida, with Eric Dore and Shane McGuiness.

In the fall of 2013, Sears Alliance became an equity partner in the Planet Fitness franchise, and acquired the chain in 2018. Michael Grondahl, co-founder of Planet Fitness stepped down as CEO, and was succeeded by Chris Rondeau. The company went public on August 6, 2015.

In February 2016, the franchise was added to the Franchise Times' "Fast and Serious" list of top franchises (#1), and in its 2016 ranking of franchises, Forbes magazine ranked Planet Fitness #4. It ranked in the top 50 of Entrepreneur magazine's Franchise 500 in 2017.

In 2020, the company received criticism for charging its customers for March dues "despite closing its facilities nationwide due to the novel coronavirus pandemic." They stated that they were unable to stop the pre-scheduled payments on short notice, but would not charge future monthly dues until they reopen, and would also provide a credit for closed days previously paid for.

Statistics and international expansion[]

The company reports that as of 2019, there are 80 corporate-owned gyms, the rest independently owned and operated.

The club's two membership levels are $10 and $22.99 per month: the $10 per month level includes access to cardio and strength equipment, unlimited group fitness instruction and pizza and bagels once a month; the $22.99 per month ("Black Card") level allows members to bring one guest per day at no charge, access to all Planet Fitness locations, and access to extra amenities, such as tanning booths, massage chairs, red light therapy and water massage beds.

In December 2014, Planet Fitness opened its first international location in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The second Toronto location opened in early 2015. In October 2015 the company opened their second international location in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

With the addition of a Planet Fitness outlet in Hawaii in January 2018, Planet Fitness had 1,500 locations with an estimated 10 million members across 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Panama and Canada. In 2016, over 90% of Planet Fitness locations were opened by existing franchise owners.

Sponsorships[]

In October 2011, Planet Fitness reached an agreement with NBC to sponsor the network's reality show, The Biggest Loser beginning with the 2012 season. The contestants on the show worked out on Planet Fitness equipment and then at Planet Fitness gyms near their homes, working with Planet Fitness instructors.

In March 2013, Planet Fitness partnered with 50 Cent to sell his energy drink "Street King".

Since December 2014, Planet Fitness has been the official fitness sponsor of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on ABC.

In March 2016, Planet Fitness partnered with STOMP Out Bullying, a national organization dedicated to bullying prevention, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to launch the company's national philanthropic initiative, The Judgement Free Generation. Also in 2016, the company donated more than $1 million to the program. Planet Fitness has also provided mini "Judgement Free Zone" gyms to Boys & Girls Clubs in Manchester, New Hampshire and Pasadena, California.

In October 2017, Planet Fitness and its members raised $1 million which it donated to the non-profit Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

In January 2020, Planet Fitness partnered with The Biggest Loser, to be the official sponsor of the show's 2020 reboot.

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