Create a Pro Shop in Your Rec Center

pro shop

This is Part One in a three part series on creating a pro shop in your rec center.

Are you looking for ways to generate additional revenue for your rec center, as well as offering something of value to your members?

Starting up a pro shop in your unused or under-utilized space may be just what is needed, and it doesn’t have to be costly or space-intensive. Managers often don’t give this idea much thought since there can be concerns about budget, keeping track of merchandise, reporting issues and training personnel to track/sell/manage the merchandise.

What are some of the positive reasons to start up a pro shop?

  • New stream of revenue.
  • Convenience for your customers.
  • Addition of group exercise/swim classes that may require equipment.
  • Merchandise sales for private instruction such as personal training.
  • Did I mention a new stream of revenue?

What are some of the negative aspects of starting up a pro shop?

  • Initial amount of money needed for merchandise and fixtures.
  • Software needed to keep track of merchandise/inventory.
  • Need to collect sales tax if your state requires it.
  • Staff to order/track/sell/manage the products.

The positive reasons are fairly self-explanatory, but let’s take apart the negative reasons and I’ll offer my solutions:

  • Initial money to get started: Yes, you will need an initial amount of money to get started, but it doesn’t have to be a lot. You’d be surprised what you can do for $500 to $1,000. Take a look at the programs you offer and start out with the basics. Padlocks are an item rec centers can sell since most have lockers that require the member to bring their own lock. If you have a learn-to-swim program, swim goggles and swim caps are easy items to begin with and you usually won’t go wrong with at least a dozen of each to start, depending on the size of your facility.
  • You will need fixtures as well, but these can be created “on the cheap” in the beginning and it doesn’t need to take up much room: you can use grids, PVC pipe, and clear acrylic pieces to create display areas that hang from the ceiling or are anchored on walls that are bare right now.
  • Inventory tracking: In our case, our membership software allows us to create items in our database that can be tracked for sales as well as the sales tax. Check your own membership software. Likely it will offer a retail/merchandise sales and tracking feature as well.
  • Staff: In most cases, you won’t need additional employees. We placed our pro shop at membership services, so the current staff handles sales of the merchandise. Our inventory isn’t large enough to create the need for anyone solely dedicated to those sales, but we can certainly hope it will be a problem some day.

If you don’t already have merchandise sales in your facility, give the pro shop idea some thought and put some figures down on paper. How much could you generate in sales from an initial spend of $1,000? Could your rec center use an extra $200 to $500 per month? That’s a small number, of course, that can be much greater based on the size of your university membership and program offerings.

For future blogs, I’ll cover ideas on how to begin purchasing your inventory to keep costs down, profit margin, product mix, how to set up/display your merchandise, types of staffers to look for and how to incentivize sales with your staff as well as your members.

If you have any pro shop or merchandising questions, leave a comment below or contact me and I’m happy to address them in upcoming blogs.

Theresa Ortega
Theresa Ortega began her connection to fitness as a kid playing soccer and swimming in the Olympic pools at Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas, Venezuela. She became interested in the martial arts and attained a First Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. During that time, she also opened a martial arts supply and equipment retail store, Kamikaze Karate. In the early 2000s she was in the first group of certified instructors at the local Terre Haute YMCA to teach a fun new class called BodyPump. As a staffer at Indiana State University’s Campus Recreation since 2006, Theresa now manages marketing, communications, web, digital media and the pro shop. Her Bachelor of Science in Psychology is from Indiana State University. She has served as a conference committee member for IHRSA, and served as a speaker/presenter at both IHRSA and NIRSA conferences and Midwest FitFest, often speaking about handwriting analysis and its connection to health. Theresa is a connector in the rec center, reaching out to new members to encourage them to get started, and reminding current members of why they started in the first place; but mostly reminding all of the fun they can have making lifetime fitness their own. Theresa can be reached at

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