CURVES Prepares for Negative Forbes Story

Curves prepares for more negative press… this time from Forbes.
by Sean Kelly ,UnhappyFranchisee.Com

Curves International is bracing itself for a negative franchise story expected to appear on Forbes.Com as early as Tuesday, and to appear in the print edition of Forbes magazine the first week of June, 2014.

Curves and its private equity investor North Castle Partners appear to be battening down the hatches and donning their damage control garb in anticipation of the worst.

They sent an email to their franchisees and managers (see full text below) warning them to direct media inquiries to their PR team.

The company’s PR team will likely react to media inquiries with the same lack of transparency and candor as is reflected in their prepared statement for members:

“At Curves, we are proud of our standing as the world’s largest chain of fitness centers for women.  We are committed to providing high-quality, personalized programs and solutions for our members while supporting our franchisees and positioning them for success.”

UnhappyFranchisee.Com: Hosting Curves Franchise Complaints Since 2006

UnhappyFranchisee.Com (and our predecessor FranchisePick.Com) has been  home to the company’s insider franchise discussions and news since 2006.

You can see an index of our posts here:  Curves Posts on Unhappy Franchisee

One post has more than 1300 comments: Robert Lay’s Story

UnhappyFranchisee.Com has provided fitness franchisees with a forum to exchange information, ideas and mutual support throughout the painful decline and failures of thousands of franchise locations.

We have published more than 50 posts on Curves, and generated thousands of complaints from failed and failing franchisees.

In 2005, Curves peaked with 7800 U.S. franchise locations.  By the end of 2012 that number had declined more than 60% to just 2854 U.S. franchise locations.

See:  The Rise & Painful Fall of the Curves Franchise Chain

Franchise Owners Allege Corporate Indifference to Franchisee Suffering

Since 2006, franchisees have complained that the company turned a blind eye to their struggles and inability to compete in the marketplace with an outdated, uncompetitive fitness model.

Franchisees complained that once their franchises failed, founder Gary Heavin’s “Christian” company subjected them to coldhearted, brutal collection tactics to extract “failure fees” even after they had lost everything.

More recently, the franchisee survivors complain that new owner North Castle Partners has imposed unreasonable new conditions and required them to make burdensome and costly changes.

Additionally, franchisees have complained that North Castle Partners (which recently acquired Jenny Craig weight loss chain) is forcing owners to go into the weight loss industry – without their input or approval.

Damage Control Email from Curves International to Franchisees & Managers

Last week, franchisees report that they received this email from Curves International:

Dear Franchisees,

Within the next week, we expect Forbes (a business publication) will publish an article about Curves International, Inc. and we want to share the details with you upfront.

A reporter from Forbes contacted us for input as he was crafting a story on Curves.  His article was driven by contacting some franchisees – former and current – who regularly complain in an online forum.  While this is not a story we actively pursued ourselves, we provided our point of view and also put the reporter in touch with several franchisees who shared their positive experiences with Curves.  This reporter also interviewed the appropriate executive from North Castle Partners, as well as Monty Sharma.

We anticipate the article will be posted online next week Tuesday or Wednesday and will appear in the print edition of the magazine the first week of June.  Based on our ongoing conversations with the reporter, we believe the article will have a negative slant.

Should you receive inquiries on the subject from the news media please direct the news media to PR@Curves.com and do not respond yourself as this messaging should be handled at the corporate level.  For Curves members, please use the following prepared statement:

“At Curves, we are proud of our standing as the world’s largest chain of fitness centers for women.  We are committed to providing high-quality, personalized programs and solutions for our members while supporting our franchisees and positioning them for success.”

We want to point out the positive media coverage our PR team has secured thus far in 2014 that drives home the message to our target consumer that Curves works and is highly relevant in a competitive landscape.  Media coverage includes weight loss success stories on the TODAY Show and in magazines like Prevention, Family Circle and Woman’s Day.  For Curves Workouts with Jillian Michaels, we have been prominently featured in outlets such as the TODAY Show, Rachael Ray, Wendy Williams, PEOPLE magazine, Extra, Access Hollywood online, the Daily Buzz, The Insider – and many more.

We want you to know that we continue to be committed to the success of the Curves brand and to the success of your business.  We are continually looking for ways to make improvements and value your input.  Please feel free to contact us directly to share your comments or questions at membercomments@curves.com.

Best regards,

Curves International

I was interviewed for the Forbes story by Forbes writer Karsten Strauss, as was attorney Jonathan Fortman who is representing multiple franchisees in litigation against the women’s fitness franchisor.

We also expect an online story highlighting the franchise buying advice gleaned from the experiences of UnhappyFranchisee.Com contributors.

Check back for our updates as the story breaks.

ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH CURVES & THE CURVES FRANCHISE?  SHARE A COMMENT BELOW.

Contact UnhappyFranchisee.com

TAGS:  North Castle Partners, Monty Sharma, Jenny Craig, Fitness franchise, Jon Fortman, Sean Kelly, Unhappy Franchisee

10 thoughts on “CURVES Prepares for Negative Forbes Story

  • May 31, 2014 at 10:19 am
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    Hello,
    I just wanted to say that surely you must know that posting and hosting on this site hurts current Curves owners who are not Curves international haters. I want to be able to sell my Curves some day in the future and sites like this are very detrimental toward that goal. I understand if you feel that you have been wronged in some way, that you would be hurt or angry about it. But please keep in mind all of the current Curves owners who are trying to grow their business and stay or become profitable. I liken this site to the Curves owner who stands in her circuit with nothing but plaintive and negative things to say.In the end, we are the ones being hurt by sites and commentary like this. I work hard at my Curves and see all of the changes being made by North Castle partners as necessary to keep us competitive in the fitness market. Gary and Diane Heaven don’t own Curves International anymore. Let’s give North Castle Partners a chance to make things better for all of us. This is going to take time and a great deal of effort by all parties involved. I am not posting my name, not because I am afraid to speak my mind, but because the blowback of bitter commentary I would be sure to receive I just don’t want.

  • May 31, 2014 at 12:48 pm
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    Stay Positive:

    I certainly respect your views concerning those who choose to post on this site. However, the changes being proposed by NCP are too little too late for several current franchisees who are not able to afford to stay in business any longer. If Curves wanted to do the right thing, they would assist these owners with a plan to permit them to exit the system without any further economic loss. Instead, Curves has taken the approach of extracting whatever else they can from these owners for the privilege to close a failed business. Curves has bullied and threatened these owners and has done everything to isolate the franchisees who are failing. Sites like this give those owners a chance to see that they are not alone and that it is not all their fault, something Curves wants to avoid at all costs. I hope you remain successful and are able to sell your club at a nice profit. However, if you are fortunate enough to do so you will definitely be the exception to the rule.

  • May 31, 2014 at 3:06 pm
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    There is no reason for anyone to give your negative feedback. But you may be confusing honest feedback with negative feedback. By your own words you admit the brand is still suffering. Why are so many still struggling to stay or become profitable? It’s been just about 2 years since North Castle bought an interest in Curves.
    Curves and NCP are the ones who should be keeping in mind all the Curves that are struggling to survive and/or sell their business. It’s their duty to protect the brand and keep it strong. It was their job to keep it relevant and competitive. That was something they should have done years and years ago. At this late hour, the struggle to survive is that much harder.
    One more thing, with their purchase of Jenny Craig and the testing of the blending of the two programs, what exactly will someone be purchasing if they buy your Curves? Do you know? Will your buyer know? They may believe they are buying a Curves and a few months later Curves may tell them it’s now a Jenny Craig. From what I am hearing, there is a lot of uncertainty with the future direction of the product & services offered.

  • June 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm
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    I agree with Mr. Fortman as to the importance of this site. I sift through the whining and ludicrous accusations of some posts to find the owners who share the struggles I have had. It has helped me feel as though I am NOT a failure and that I am not alone in my frustration. I had to close my club last year and was not able to complete my contract. When I approached my AD, or whatever the title is now, she had the nerve to tell me that closing was not an option. I was trying to seek help and had been for months. All I got was info on how to get out in the community and bang the pavement. As if I hadn’t exhausted that approach already. At no time did anyone take the time to come up with a realistic solution. Instead I was looking at mandatory upgrades, purchasing more product, providing an exercise program that 80% of my dwindling membership couldn’t benefit from anyways. Finally after notifying her that I was closing I found out that I could have moved my club closer to a bigger city, I was previously told I had to stay where I was………at this point it was to late, I had no energy or desire. What made me the maddest and hurt me the most was that when I did notify Wendy I was closing I immediately lost the income from two months of Silver Sneaker money. Money I earned before I even decide to close. Money I needed to use for the month I would get no revenue. Wendy informed me that Curves did not owe me that money from my members’ insurance companies and that Curves was not responsible for funding the closing of my club. I wasn’t looking for them to finance anything, I just wanted what was due me so I didn’t get any farther behind. Heck, that money was also going to go to them for fees! Guess they got that and then some. I feel that anyone who cannot understand the pain and frustration on this site must not be in the situation us small, unprofitable clubs are or were in. I have no doubt that NCP is banking on small clubs being unable to keep up with their demands and having to close and then they can rake in all the money from broken contracts…………something in that feels so illegal. Force out the unprofitabe club and focus on those that are making them money so they will have a pretty package to sell after their “3 year plan” is done.

    I know many owners who want to sell and I know this site is not a big help, but it is what it is. NCP keeps pushing their desire to preserve and promote the Curves brand…………….I have lost track of what the Curves brand is…. unfortunately the plain and simple Curves workout is no longer profitable, I hate that because it is awesome. If NCP had focused on the population that most benefits from out circuit instead of the 20 and 30 somethings in the big cities I might still be serving my members………………….I wonder what the future holds and I hope that all the owners who have invested and re-invested (new equipment) have the time to recoop their money. I don’t think NCP is in it for the long haul.

  • July 1, 2014 at 8:59 pm
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    Dear stay positive, do you not think we were all in your position? Most of us did try to sell. The brand took such a hit, we had no buyers. What was there to hold on for, so every holiday season, they tell us at the last minute that we have to spend more money, make more changes and if we don’t we get left out of everything. No time to save money for changes, etc. Their excuse saying that all the franchisees were not in it for the right reasons or were unqualified owners….REALLY..thousands of us???? NCP is not in it for the long haul. They just want to turn them over and you know what??? You never know who is going to buy the company, then what???
    Do whatever they say??? You do not work for yourself…you work for THEM

  • July 3, 2014 at 11:43 pm
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    I have been a dedicated curves member since 2006. I have moved my membership thru 3 clubs and 2 states, but always stayed a curves member. It was more than just a gym, it was a family. Now due to lack of corporate leadership, understanding of it’s own culture, and just what seems to me gross mismanagement and apathy my curves is closed. I live in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, when I moved here in 2008 there were at least 10 curves franchisees in the area, now there are 2 and one of them will close in another month.

    It appears the management has lost sight of it’s focus group, the mature women, who call curves home. The majority of curves members are women in their 40’s and older, why do we need Jillian Michaels? I do not exercise in leggings and a sport bra! I don’t need anyone in my face, screaming “give me one more”. I am looking to strengthen my muscles,, prevent osteoporosis and maintain my overall health. And I wish to do it in a friendly atmosphere. I believe I am typical of the person who attends curves.. Why can’t corporate understand that?
    Instead they penalize their owners with all kinds of fees, and mandatory changes, and then make it difficult for then to collect what monies are owed them from curves. Just with my own experience, I am a silver sneakers member of which curves is a participating member. Curves current monthly fee is $39.00 a month, my insurance company pays curves, what ever the negotiated fee is for me. My understanding that it is a set amount per visit of which corporate takes the lion’s share. My club owner receives a paltry, $1.99, per visit for me. My club has between 30-40 silver sneakers members. How do you pay bills and make any income on that?
    I am just disgusted, with the entire thing. And very, very sad, that an important part of my life has disappeared.

  • July 7, 2014 at 11:58 am
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    I closed my club last November and of course they are trying to charge me for closing out of contract. Never gonna happen. Having said that, why don’t they just sell my territory and make much more money and keep the brand going. You know why…..because the name has taken such a hit, they can’t sell them. If they were doing so well, people would be beating the door down to by a club!!!!

  • July 7, 2014 at 11:58 am
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    I closed my club last November and of course they are trying to charge me for closing out of contract. Never gonna happen. Having said that, why don’t they just sell my territory and make much more money and keep the brand going. You know why…..because the name has taken such a hit, they can’t sell them. If they were doing so well, people would be beating the door down to buy a club!!!!

  • July 13, 2014 at 7:35 am
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    I have been owner for 3 years and when NCP purchase Curves Int it was great they were Curves Complete commercials everywhere and the appointments were rolling so well I try to save another failing franchise that counting on Jan Sales, Nov 2013 they Purchase Jenny Craig, Introduce Jillian Michaels ,Mats,Tvs and divert from Curves Complete all together and now I know why they were setting their Corporate run Jenny Craig with Curves in them using JM Classes but they no Longer need Curves Franchises or Curves Complete……I have gone from 30 Appointments last June to 5 in 2014 and every club I speak too has the same problem , Now Corporate own Jenny with Curves are opening everywhere in California….Tustin had a Grand Opening on Sat 7/12/2014 and Dublin Jenny Craig is pulling appointment from San Ramon wish is closed and Dublin wish share their address all while they take 3% of the Advertising money they take from us to advertise Jillian not Curves Complete oh we have one opening in Ocala very soon…..I smell CLASS ACTION S…….FOR North Castle Partners.

  • April 25, 2016 at 7:18 am
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    I was disabled because of curves
    There are too many words to describe my cooperation experience with this company
    I am a former indepenant contractor call a mentor and I would like to publicly share my story :-)((((()()

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