Welcome to post #5 in the Curves Contradictions series. This series focuses on exposing the contradictions we have caught Curves in throughout our case research.
BuyCurves.com is where potential franchisees are supposed to go to find out more information about the Curves franchise system. The website is meant to give potential franchisees an idea of what to expect both cost and time-wise should they choose to invest in a Curves franchise.Over the years, the information on this website has changed drastically. While normal website updates are too be expected, most websites aim to improve and provide more information. BuyCurves.com became more and more vague with each update.
Home page focus
In June 2005, this was prominently displayed on the front page:“With a Curves franchise,you’ll be in business for yourself, not by yourself.Mission StatementWe commit our methods, systems and motivation to helping people, whether a Curves member or franchise owner, to help themselves in their quest to attain a better quality of life.”(Source)
Many Curves franchisees have said that the “you’ll be in business for yourself, not by yourself” promise was something that truly convinced them to invest, but once they were within the system, they didn’t feel like they were getting the support they were promised.
By February 2007, the message had changed:
“Curves is the Global Leader in Women’s Fitness
Curves is the largest fitness franchise in the world and the first to offer a 30-minute exercise program designed exclusively for women. Curves is a business where earnings are measured by your service to others. If you are passionate about helping women, and willing to work hard while having fun, then owning a Curves franchise may be right for you. ”(Source)
As you can see, the focus was moved to how successful the brand is. It also puts more pressure on the franchisees instead of presenting a more “teamwork” style message like the one from 2005.
Training and Support
In October 2005, Curves clearly stated that Club Camp Training would last 5 days:
We assume that franchisees have no experience or knowledge in the operation of a fitness and weight loss facility. Consequently, we’ll provide you with materials, text books and systems manuals at Club Camp, our comprehensive classroom training program held almost every month in Waco, Texas. For five days, expert instructors will teach you nutritional guidance, exercise physiology, sales and marketing, and general business. You’ll be certified as a Curves Workout Personal Trainer, and you’ll leave confident with the tools to safely and effectively operate your Curves franchise.”(Source)
By February 2007, it got a lot more vague:
“We assume that franchisees have no experience or knowledge in the operation of a fitness and weight loss facility. Consequently, we’ll provide you with materials, text books and systems manuals at Club Camp, our comprehensive classroom training program. Club Camps are held around the world in countries like Australia, Ireland, the United States, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Expert instructors will teach you nutritional guidance, exercise physiology, sales and marketing, and general business. You’ll leave confident with the tools to safely and effectively operate your Curves franchise.”
Not only was the duration no longer listed, the frequency of the trainings had been removed.
Curves has repeatedly promised mentors to help new franchisees during their first few days of opening. In 2005, they claimed it they would provide this mentor free of charge:
At our expense, we’ll send one of our expert mentors to assist you with your grand opening and work with you for the first four days of your franchise operation. The mentor will show you how to handle phone calls, sell memberships, teach the Curves Workout System and provide weight loss guidance. By the end of the week, your Curves franchise will be up and running.”(Source)
By 2007, the words “At our expense” were changed to “At no cost to you”
At no cost to you, we’ll send one of our expert mentors to assist you with your grand opening and work with you for the first four days of your franchise operation. The mentor will show you how to handle phone calls, sell memberships, teach the Curves Workout System and provide weight loss guidance.”(Source)
While this may seem like a subtle change, it was around this time that franchisees reported being told that they would only receive a mentor if they scheduled a huge amount of potential new members appointments on opening day. The number was so high that very few new franchisees could reach it, and thus never received a mentor.
Even before 2007, franchisees often reported that the mentors were unreliable and inconsistent. While some franchisees received their mentors for the full time, others would show up sporadically, and still others would not show up at all.
Less human training
By 2010, the support system has been switched to almost all computer-based training through videos and online help sections instead of actual people.
“Club Development Support Program – This specialized program will provide you with all the support you need to know for daily processes, along with the initial steps required to open a club, and help prepare you for Club Camp. You will be trained by experts in club ownership that will help jumpstart your Curves opportunity.
Club Camp – A special, week long training, filled with information from experts at Curves corporate office. When done, you’ll understand guest producing techniques, member retention and Curves club essentials.
The Curves Learning Experience – As a new franchise owner, you’ll be provided with a computer based program that teaches you all the necessary procedures and processes for operational areas within your club.After you open: You’ll be provided with continued support through these resources:
CurvesCommunity.com – This extensive website is filled with tools and resources used in the daily management of your club. Providing you with materials for advertising, internal and external promotions to generate business” (Source)
In 2002, BuyCurves gave a detailed list of expenses:
In 2005, they also claimed very low numbers for square footage and membership would lead you to success:
“SUCCESS BY DESIGN
The Curves Workout, dressing rooms and consulting areas require 1,000 to 1,500 square feet. This efficiency allows most locations to be profitable with as few as 200 members.”(Source)
Of course, very few franchisees were able to operate with such a small space and low number of members.
By 2007, the 200 members claim had been removed:
“Profit with Low OverheadA Curves franchise can operate in a space as small as 1,000 square feet which keeps rent and other operating costs as low as possible. Payroll expenses are minimal when a franchise owner-operator hires a young person or student to work Monday through Friday evenings. Other costs include insurance, utilities, and small miscellaneous expenses.”(Source)
By 2010, specific pricing and expenses details had been removed from the site. All potential franchises were directed to fill out an information request form instead.(Source)
All of these changes are clearly documented. Why do you think Curves has made so many changes in the information they provide to potential franchisees over the years?