How the Economy is Affecting Martial Arts Schools

Thesemindz

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So I've been going out over the last few days promoting the Springfield Area Martial Arts Expo to local schools and clubs, and while the response has been overwhelmingly positive, I've noticed something sad and alarming.

A little over a year ago there were between thirty and forty martial arts schools in the city, not counting churches with karate clubs, or guys teaching out of their garage. As I've driven around town this week though, I've gone to storefront after storefront where there used to be martial arts schools, and now there's just "for lease" signs.

It's sad. In the last two days, I've driven to no less than 10 closed martial arts schools. That means that in the last year, something like 30% of the places in town where people could learn martial arts have gone under.

Now, it's not all bad news. There's a few new schools too. But it saddens me to see so many entrepreneurs failing, and so many martial arts schools closing their doors.

It isn't just martial arts schools of course. It seems like more storefronts are empty than occupied these days. But I don't style hair or sell antiques or dry-clean clothes. I do martial arts. And when I see these schools closing, it hurts my heart.


-Rob
 

terryl965

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All I can say is the same thing schools are closing or joining each other to save what they have. I have been ask to sub lease mine when we are not here, have not taken him up yet but I am thinking about it and how it could cut my overall cost.
 

Big Don

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That isn't at all what has happened here. The kid's class got so big they had to split it, the adult class is almost to that point. The past six months both the kid's and adult class have more than doubled in size.
 

terryl965

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That isn't at all what has happened here. The kid's class got so big they had to split it, the adult class is almost to that point. The past six months both the kid's and adult class have more than doubled in size.

Don glad it is working out for you, sounds like you are beating the economy.
 
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Thesemindz

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That isn't at all what has happened here. The kid's class got so big they had to split it, the adult class is almost to that point. The past six months both the kid's and adult class have more than doubled in size.

I'm glad that's been your experience, but I wonder if your classes have grown because other schools have closed and people want a place to train. I don't know, but it would be interesting to find out.

Regardless, your school must be offering a quality product to be growing like that in this economy. Good job.


-Rob
 

Kwan Jang

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Of course certain areas of the country have been hit harder than others. So far, we've been pretty fortunate. We had a slow down on new enrollments when this first really hit around back to school time last year. That hurt because we did not have the growth that we normally would, but we are actually up on our stats for new enrollments so far for 2009. One thing that really helps is that we have excellent retention. Our quit rate is just under 4% and it's just a thing of keeping the student service high and having them make progress on the floor. IF you are really giving them something of value, most people will find a way to prioritize their training even when times get reasonably tough.
 

Guardian

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So I've been going out over the last few days promoting the Springfield Area Martial Arts Expo to local schools and clubs, and while the response has been overwhelmingly positive, I've noticed something sad and alarming.

A little over a year ago there were between thirty and forty martial arts schools in the city, not counting churches with karate clubs, or guys teaching out of their garage. As I've driven around town this week though, I've gone to storefront after storefront where there used to be martial arts schools, and now there's just "for lease" signs.

It's sad. In the last two days, I've driven to no less than 10 closed martial arts schools. That means that in the last year, something like 30% of the places in town where people could learn martial arts have gone under.

Now, it's not all bad news. There's a few new schools too. But it saddens me to see so many entrepreneurs failing, and so many martial arts schools closing their doors.

It isn't just martial arts schools of course. It seems like more storefronts are empty than occupied these days. But I don't style hair or sell antiques or dry-clean clothes. I do martial arts. And when I see these schools closing, it hurts my heart.


-Rob

I'm sorry to hear that up there. My wife is from Springfield, her whole family lives up there, her one brother says the economy up there right now is worse then down here in Texas and that surprised with considering the construction and such I saw going on up there last year when we visited. Keep the faith.
 

girlbug2

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Sad times.

I understand that during the Depression , people turned to boxing as a popular form of entertainment -- perhaps the betting angle had something to do with that? -- it was something of a golden age of boxing. So let's see if we don't see a similar upswing of not only boxing again, but other martial arts. Perhaps it's already begun in some areas. It may take a few years to become apparent on the local level, but don't lose hope...
 
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Thesemindz

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I'm sorry to hear that up there. My wife is from Springfield, her whole family lives up there, her one brother says the economy up there right now is worse then down here in Texas and that surprised with considering the construction and such I saw going on up there last year when we visited. Keep the faith.

It's awful.

Everybody is broke. Everybody is struggling. I know people who working two forty hour jobs to survive and got their hours cut in half at both places. Stores are laying off people left and right. My job is commission based, and I've gone from making two thousand dollars a month to making eight hundred dollars a month. And I'm one of the lucky ones, because I still have a job and some money coming in.

Every day we have multiple people coming in looking for work, and we aren't hiring. I know a major restaurant chain that's making less than a thousand dollars profit a month per store locally. Shopping centers are dark, people are staying at home, and everyone is worried about paying their bills.

It isn't just us blue collar joes either. A friend of mine works for a major accounting firm, and they've been doing round after round of layoffs, and warning people it's only going to get worse after tax day. Another major restaurant chain I used to work for just laid off most of it's corporate management and eliminated their offices so the people who didn't get fired are now working out of the back of the kitchen.

You mentioned all that construction they were doing here two years ago? Now we just have half constructed houses and stores dark and exposed to the elements. There's entire subdivisions they planned that have one house built and twenty empty lots. There's entire shopping plazas they built two years ago that don't have a single space rented.

Things are bad. And they're getting worse. We all see our bills getting payed later every month, and we're all running out of costs to cut.

But we'll get by.

Somehow.


-Rob
 

searcher

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We have had a little bit of growth and I have been asked to open a MMA school. I am hoping that if I do this, I will be able to add my dreamgym into the mix and make it a one stop shop kinda thing. I have decided to not raise the fees in order to keep the ones I have and maybe attract ones that I don't have.

Many of the local schools are raising their fees and they are paying dearly for it. IMO, if you keep your fees down and don't get greedy, you will weather this better then the flip-side.
 

girlbug2

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I have decided to not raise the fees in order to keep the ones I have and maybe attract ones that I don't have.

Many of the local schools are raising their fees and they are paying dearly for it. IMO, if you keep your fees down and don't get greedy, you will weather this better then the flip-side.

Yes, thank you! I had been wanting to enroll my kids in a BJJ school, but their prices are just too freakin' high. So it's on to Krav Maga, where the owner understands that during a recession you want to make it easier, not harder, for customers to afford to train. And yes, his business has been doing well this year.
 

Bruno@MT

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Sports and hobbies are one of the first things to get cut from the personal budget. So any school with a basic sense of economy would definitely not increase their prices. I think that lowering prices might even make them more money in the long run, since they can catch the students who left when other schools raised their prices.

That said, I am wondering about the prices for MA schools in the US. Is it common for dojos to be located in a dedicated building? Because it seems to me that that is the biggest cost.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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I do not know if this true nationally, but in my area, education and service industries seem to be hit the least.

We had a spate of schools that had trouble at the beginning of the housing crisis, but there are still tons of schools in the area.

One note: property management of the various mini-malls that dojos are often the cause of the closure or moving of many schools. The old shopping center where our dojo was doubled the rent of every store who's lease was up. One location closed; they were a book store and the owner had another store. He moved all of the inventory and employees to the other location and told the mall to go do something with themselves. Two others, one of which was us, moved. The stores have been empty now since last July.

I do not know the dymamics of property management, but it seems that in the land of mini-malls that is Montgomery County, the management can be in trouble when the stores are doing well, or they are no longer able to disguise their greed and start jacking up rent, resulting in a lot of empty space in their malls, and often the property management then being in trouble.

I suspect that some of these companies do more than just property management and that it is their other ventures that land them in their various pickles. This seems to be unrelated to the economy.

Daniel
 

blindsage

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Our school is moving out of it's current location, but not closing. The building owner is raising the rent, moronic to me, but whatever. We will be working out in a very large public park near by for most of the summer and moving into a new location for fall (probably sub-letting from someone). I'm wondering how many schools are doing something like this, moving from a dedicated location to subletting or combining with another school or facility, and not actually fully closing down.
 

LuckyKBoxer

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I am sorry but I just flat out disagree that this is a bad or sad thing. Obviously for some people its heartbreaking to lose their dream, but I do not blame this on anyone but themselves.
Too many people took advantage of the economy the last several years before it downturned to take awful risks in opening up businesses with poor business plans if any at all. Too many mediocre, or sometimes even great martial artists are horrible businessmen, and instead of educating themselves on what to do, they skimp and do it half assed and set themselves up for disaster.

I disagree that people cut this type of activity first and foremost in these economic times, I believe they try to maintain these types of activities over many other things too give themselves an outlet, and the opportunity to get new students who need an outlet are higher then ever.
The key is to understand business, marketing, and sales.
You need to show value in what you are doing for someone, not the lowest price. Our school is one of the highest priced in the area, yet we expanded the school to nearly 10,000 square feet in December, have added program, and expanded student base by alot. We even opened another school in another state, the only reason we don't open more schools in other areas is lack of enough people to trust to run them correctly. Proper planning, proper instruction, proper facilities, and proper knowledge equal success. I think our recent economic boom made too many people forget about hard work, and just expect to have it handed to them.
the smartest way to go is to buy your own facility, but too many people can not afford to do that, and do not have the patience to do it the smart way. Personally I have no hard feelings about all the martial arts studios going under. I think in the long run it is a great thing for the martial arts future. I think some of those that have lost their martial arts businesses will go into something else all together, which they probably should have to begin with, some will learn a lesson and learn what they need to change and make a better go of it.
I do not know about anyone else, but I have visited hundreds of martial arts studios and talked to hundreds of martial arts school owners, and I have to say that the vast majority were not doing it because it was what they loved and had a passion for. Thats is the first mistake.
 

stickarts

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It seems to be a mixed bag in my immediate area. We are doing very well as are a few other schools. A few seem to be staying above water although they are struggling a bit. and some are really struggling and tell me they may not make it much longer.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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I am sorry but I just flat out disagree that this is a bad or sad thing. Obviously for some people its heartbreaking to lose their dream, but I do not blame this on anyone but themselves.
Too many people took advantage of the economy the last several years before it downturned to take awful risks in opening up businesses with poor business plans if any at all. Too many mediocre, or sometimes even great martial artists are horrible businessmen, and instead of educating themselves on what to do, they skimp and do it half assed and set themselves up for disaster.
All too true. The realestate market nearly disemboweled itself doing exactly this, both in the banking and selling end of it and customers in the buying end of it.

I do not know about anyone else, but I have visited hundreds of martial arts studios and talked to hundreds of martial arts school owners, and I have to say that the vast majority were not doing it because it was what they loved and had a passion for. Thats is the first mistake.
Very true and very sad.

Daniel
 

LarryR

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Wow, the studio where I train and teach at just got a 2% reduction rate in the lease payment. The owner of the property wanted us to renew our lease. Good sound judgement in my book. We were actually considering looking for a larger location to accomodate our potential growth. Mind you things are slow here in Pa as well, but with that kind of offer it was hard to refuse. We have raised our prices but we are still by far the most reasonable studio in our area, and in our as federation as well.

TangSoo...
LarryR.
 

grydth

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So I've been going out over the last few days promoting the Springfield Area Martial Arts Expo to local schools and clubs, and while the response has been overwhelmingly positive, I've noticed something sad and alarming.

A little over a year ago there were between thirty and forty martial arts schools in the city, not counting churches with karate clubs, or guys teaching out of their garage. As I've driven around town this week though, I've gone to storefront after storefront where there used to be martial arts schools, and now there's just "for lease" signs.

It's sad. In the last two days, I've driven to no less than 10 closed martial arts schools. That means that in the last year, something like 30% of the places in town where people could learn martial arts have gone under.

Now, it's not all bad news. There's a few new schools too. But it saddens me to see so many entrepreneurs failing, and so many martial arts schools closing their doors.

It isn't just martial arts schools of course. It seems like more storefronts are empty than occupied these days. But I don't style hair or sell antiques or dry-clean clothes. I do martial arts. And when I see these schools closing, it hurts my heart.


-Rob

Is it possible that some of these schools have simply moved to bigger and better locations, or merged for mutual benefit?

Could some bigger outfit or chain being buying them up or buying them out?

Could it be that your area, for its size, simply had too many MA schools for the population size?

Just tossing out possible alternatives..... may not be the economy at work.

I haven't seen any mass die off in my area. I'd have to say the girls' goju ryu dojo is stronger than ever, and the Tai Chi places seem about the same. This is in the Peoples Republic of New York, an area really feeling a lot of high taxes and plant closures, too.
 
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