June: Gym Owner Monthly

Gym Owner Monthly's June issue was published today and stats from our 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry report have been featured on pg.11 ...


The 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry report highlights that the UK fitness industry is continuing to grow, with increases of 4.6% in the number of fitness facilities, 5.1% in the number of members and 6.3% in market value.

There are now over 9.7 million fitness members in the UK which has boosted the penetration rate to an all-time high of 14.9%.

David Minton, Director of LeisureDB says: “It may be premature to call the period to 2020 “the golden age of fitness” but further growth will only be limited to the imagination of those pushing the boundaries”.

June: Health Club Management

A golden age for the health club industry

The latest numbers from The Leisure Database Company show the market is growing strongly and anticipating a golden age between now and 2020. David Minton reports...

The number of gyms and members, the market value of the sector and penetration rates for memberships are the key metrics detailed in the 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report published by LeisureDB and they all show the UK fitness industry to be in rude health.

There are now over 9.7m fitness members (an increase of 5.1 per cent from 2016), which has boosted the penetration rate to an all-time high of 14.9 per cent, compared to 14.3 per cent 12 months ago. The market value has continued to grow and is now estimated to be £4.7bn, a 6.3 per cent increase. Now, in the UK, 1 in every 7 people are members of a gym – the most ever.

Budget success
The low-cost market has continued to be the main driving force of the industry. With over 500 sites, they now account for 15 per cent of the market value and an impressive 35 per cent of membership across the private sector.

Some trusts, management contractors and in-house operators across the public sector are also operating low-cost gyms and many of the low-cost brands have discovered that the strength of the market in some areas enables them to raise and move into the mid-market.

Fitness brands, with transparency of pricing and offering, are continuing to grow and by utilising good social media practices and constantly listening and responding to their customers, they are meeting and exceeding their needs.

However, they are not alone in pushing the boundaries and experimenting with innovation. Both the private mid-market operators and many public sector sites are also investing and expanding their market. Franchise brands have also had their best year to date and some top end brands are quoted as having more members now than ever before.

For the first time in five years, the public sector saw a small decline in membership numbers after closing more sites than it opened for the second year running. With almost 50 per cent of public sites still to go out to tender, the trusts and contract management companies have an opportunity to turn this decline back to growth in 2018 and beyond.

The trend data shows how the industry has grown over the last five years and in 2017 the industry now offers the widest possible choice of fitness options. New technology and innovation feeds into the existing industry at all levels and could in-part be responsible for helping expand the market.

Location search, live timetables and deeper booking integration will be commonplace very shortly through search engines, social media platforms and apps. Online class bookings, currently available across 41 per cent of the private sector and 61 per cent of the public, shows good levels of adoption, even if some of the interfaces are still clunky to use for the more tech-savvy consumers.

Meanwhile new fitness experiences, via travel companies, community groups and highly curated events, are often reliant on the consumer having higher levels of fitness to take part.

Boutiques and the growing fitness-for-free sector are all anecdotally helping expand the market, and opportunities at activewear shops, park gyms and meet-ups via apps all seem to be feeding into the core fitness industry.

The consumer brings greater expectation for a better and more connected experience, and despite the current political and fiscal uncertainties, the report remains very positive about the future. It may be a little premature to call the period between 2017 and 2020 the “golden age of fitness” but the industry is likely to reach some key milestones in 2018, including the number of fitness sites surpassing 7,000 for the first time, total membership exceeding 10m, market value totalling £5bn and the penetration rate easily surpassing 15 per cent of the total population. Obviously, the devil is in the detail and the detail is exactly what’s is in this report.

Details from www.leisuredb.com/publications

Original HCM article here



1st June 2017

The 2017 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report reveals that the number of pools has continued to decline slightly over the last 12 months. The number of swimming pool sites has dropped by 0.5%. For the fifth year in a row, more swimming pool sites have closed than opened.


The UK’s leading operator (by number of sites) is public leisure trust GLL, with 122 swimming centres. They are followed by Nuffield Health in the private sector who have 110 clubs with a swimming pool.


The 2017 report highlights that 84% of the UK population live within 2 miles of one of the 3,158 swimming pool sites.


Commenting on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “Despite another slight decline in overall swimming pool numbers, technology and water that have previously caused a few issues for innovators are finally beginning to come together. New ideas and products to encourage swimming participation are emerging and it will be interesting to see how these developments impact the UK swimming pool market over the next 12 months”.

Summary of Key Facts

  • There are now 3,158 swimming sites in the UK, down from 3,173 last year.
  • 34 new public and private swimming pool sites opened, down from 40 in 2016.
  • Public pay and play fees have increased by 3% over the last 12 months.



The State of the UK Swimming Industry Report is compiled from the most comprehensive review of the UK swimming industry, involving individual contact with all sites. The reporting period is the 12 months to 31st March 2017. The audit and resulting figures are compiled by independent leisure market analysts, LeisureDB, who have been monitoring the performance of the fitness and swimming industry for over 30 years. Further details of the report can be found here 2017 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report.

The 2017 IHRSA Global Report

The 2017 IHRSA Global Report was published today and it shows that the global health club industry continues to grow. In 2016, the industry revenue totalled $83.1 billion, as 162.1 million members visited 201,000 clubs. 

LeisureDB's 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry report findings were featured in the report:

In spite of a weakening Euro and challenges in the political landscape, the fitness industry in Europe continues its robust performance. The European health club market serves more than 56 million members as nearly 55,000 health clubs generate $29 billion in revenue. The UK and Germany continue to lead all markets in Europe. In the UK, based on research by LeisureDB, 9.7 million members belong to a health club, up from 9.3 million a year ago. Approximately 6,728 facilities in the UK generate a collective $6.1 billion in industry revenue. Germany attracts more than 10 million members to 8,600 facilities and generates $5.6 billion in revenue.

The 2017 IHRSA Global Report can be purchased here

The 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report can be purchased here


Elevate 2017 - Kin Wellness

It’s set to be a high-energy Elevate 2017, here at London ExCel. Loads of innovative companies are exhibiting what’s new in the fitness industry, and leaders are here to talk current trends and future predictions.

The Business of Physical Activity

CEO of Kin Wellness, Anna Gudmundson, appeared on a panel this morning to talk about the business of physical activity, and the lively debate did not disappoint! David Minton of LeisureDB kicked it all off by setting the scene with an overview of disruption in the food and transport industry, as examples. (Good news, if AI continues to advance at the current pace, we might all have more time to spend at the gym?)

There is room for innovation and growth in any part of the industry, whether apps, trackers, gyms, clubs or the workplace. David also looked at how aggregators are gaining ground - after all, everything else is on demand, so why not fitness? The logical next step is how the fitness industry will be innovating to become disruptors themselves, especially in the current landscape of great social need and a growing health crisis.

Setting the Scene

This is something we are extremely excited about here at Kin, as we believe that corporate wellness will have a big part to play in the efforts to cope with our overburdened healthcare systems and improve our quality of life. Anna ran through our drivers and opportunities during the panel: with the NHS running up an unprecedented debt of nearly £2.5 billion, the fact that 88% of health issues on the radar are caused by lifestyle doesn’t just represent a crisis, but also great opportunity to help. We spend over 50% of our waking hours at work, so it is the perfect setting for addressing wellness.

Lifestyle and Experiences are Key

Michelle Dand of David Lloyd Leisure was the first to voice one of the main themes of the panel discussion - that experiences and value were increasingly central to their customers’ needs. Everyone is broadening their expectations of what a lifestyle brand could bring to them, Michelle observed, “we are not just four walls.” David Lloyd leverages partnerships to enrich their services offering. It was interesting to hear that so many of their clients take advantage of virtual gym sessions to accommodate their lifestyle needs.

Mat Bell of Tough Mudder agreed that experiences are the new luxury good, and that people are investing in travel, music festivals or challenge events instead of, for instance, a new car. Interestingly, he noted that social media and digital might bring everyone together before and after an event, but that during the challenge, everyone is focused on the human connections they make while their phone is safely away from the mud and the action. We also discovered that companies were taking advantage of Tough Mudder for team building.

What Makes a True Believer?

Passionately underpinning the human connection, Brian Schuring attested that people walk out of Heartcore completely connected with the brand because they are proud of themselves and are emerging from an authentic human experience. And that pride is what makes real people the best influencers; not necessarily the number of Instagram followers. The loyalty generated is a direct result of their emotional connection: engage them and leave them with a sense of empowerment. That is your fitness business, however you present fitness to the market.

Timing is Everything

At the helm of many businesses, such as Dryrobe and Scentered, Lara Morgan was overwhelmingly committed to health and life balance, but also to the value of our time. She pointed out that we are getting so intelligent about who the consumer is, and what the speed of life for them is during any given point in time, that we are headed for a lot of human-led change. She also made some compelling points that health is not taught enough at a young age, so we are playing catch-up and educating each other as adults how to look after ourselves.

Questions Answered Here...

During Q&A, the audience covered a lot of ground and gave the panelists a chance to circle back to talk about about how tech is affecting fitness, the role of private and public investment in the fitness and wellbeing industry, the rise of mental health awareness and more.

Anna quoted Sir Muir Gray’s bold recommendation that the NHS shift £100 million from drugs to physical activity as a shift in public perception. Everyone agreed that private investment and private innovation can drive public sector change, and David thinks the public sector growth is still to come. As always, it was exciting to hear from Lara and others that CEO’s everywhere are discovering that business performance demands a need to invest in wellness.

The business case for investing in employee wellbeing is a solid one, but aside from financial indicators, progress in this industry means happier and healthier people. To repeat Brian’s statement, engaging and empowering people is the mission of everyone bringing wellness and fitness to the market.

By Michelle Laven, www.KinWellness.com

We've been quoted!

Following the release of the 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry report we're pleased to announce our stats have been quoted across the media!

The Guardian - "The budget gym boom: how low-cost clubs are driving up membership"

The Times - "It's Life, Gym"

The Times - "Budget gyms are flexing their muscles"

Leisure Opportunities/Health Club Management - "Private sector drives UK fitness industry growth"

Fitness News Europe - "Public sector dip in buoyant UK market"


2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report

8th May 2017

The 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report reveals that the UK health and fitness industry is continuing to grow. This growth is being primarily driven from the private sector, which has more clubs, more members and a greater market value than ever before.

There are now over 9.7 million fitness members in the UK which has boosted the penetration rate to an all-time high of 14.9%. 1 in every 7 people in the UK is a member of a gym.

The 2017 report highlights that the industry has experienced another year of impressive growth over the twelve month period to the end of March 2017, with increases of 4.6% in the number of fitness facilities, 5.1% in the number of members and 6.3% in market value. But the devil is in the detail as clear variations are seen between the performance of the public and private sectors in the key metrics over the last 12 months.

The low cost market has continued to be the main driving force behind the private sector growth over the last 12 months. There are now over 500 low cost clubs which account for 15% of the market value and an impressive 35% of membership in the private sector.

The UK’s leading operators, in both the public and the private sectors (by number of clubs and members), remain the same as last year: Pure Gym and GLL, with 176 and 167 gyms, respectively. Will either break the 200 mark over the next 12 months?

Commentating on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “It may be premature to call the period to 2020 “the golden age of fitness” but further growth will only be limited to the imagination of those pushing the boundaries. The signs are there that the industry is likely to hit several milestones in the next 12 months. The number of gyms is on course to go over 7,000 for the first time, total membership to exceed 10 million, market value to reach £5 billion and the penetration rate should easily surpass 15%”.

Summary of Key Facts

  • There are now 6,728 fitness facilities in the UK, up from 6,435 last year.
  • Total industry membership is up 5.1% to 9.7 million.
  • Total market value is estimated at £4.7 billion, up 6.3% on 2016.
  • The UK penetration rate is 14.9%, compared to 14.3% in the previous year.
  • 272 new public and private fitness facilities have opened in the last 12 months, up from 224 in 2016.


The State of the UK Fitness Industry Report is compiled from the most comprehensive review of the UK fitness industry, involving individual contact with all sites. The reporting period is the 12 months to 31st March 2017. The audit and resulting figures are compiled by independent leisure market analysts, LeisureDB, who have been monitoring the performance of the fitness industry for over 30 years. Further details of the report can be found here 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report.

One London Techie Goes Swimmingly

A London start-up company has conquered the world with its swimming app, SwimIO. The app has recorded almost 3m swims covering a distance of 4 billion meters, that’s around the world 100 times.

Now live in 155 countries, SwimIO is the first swimming app to go global. The app encourages more participation by providing a local search and live timetables so users can find where their nearest favourite swimming activity is taking place. The top five countries, by page views, is UK, USA, China, Spain and Poland.

Users access search and live timetables over 3m times every month which equates to 4m swimmers, 9m sessions and 27m total page views (68% from mobiles). So, finding out where the nearest lane swimming is available or where a mums and toddler’s session is taking place, is now at the touch of a button.

Live timetables are currently being used by over 500 swimming pool sites in the UK and Ireland and through some new technology and APIs these timetables can be viewed on the pool website, on the app, on screens in reception and via voice phone service. At home, users can even create their own weekly timetable and print it. Expansion of the API service is being rolled out to all English speaking countries and the number of page views are expected to double in 2017.

SwimIO is provided by Active in Time (AiT) originally based at Google Campus, near London’s silicon roundabout and the founder, Dan Morgan created it out of frustration of not being able to find pool space for his water polo club. Dan took on the task of bringing swimming pool marketing from the 1990’s to the present day, linking new technology and water together for the first time. Dan says, ‘it’s cool that around one third of public pools in the UK have been early adopters of the technology which provides a seamless digital gateway of choice to the consumer.’

AiT plans to integrate its live timetable APIs to new services to be launched in the UK soon including, Reserve with Google, Facebook Calendar, Amazon Alexa and Yell who are all looking to add local search, linked to live timetable APIs, plus transaction. These granular, on-demand searches, essential for today’s consumer, are due to explode in 2017 and AiT are ready to integrate all local pool providers with these new services.


Editors Notes

‘Swimmer Dan Morgan’ the founder, created the app in his bedroom in 2011 and now swimmers have recorded over 3m swims, clocking up over 4 billion meters, that’s the equivalent of 100 times around the world. In June 2015 Dan put the first swimming app on the Apple Watch and before that the Pebble Watch. Dan’s aim has always been to put swimmers on equal terms with runners and cyclists in the world of wearables and software and SwimIO is the first app to integrate with popular running and cycling apps along with Apple’s HealthKit so workouts can be logged.

Active in Time (AiT) is the sister company of LeisureDB


Founder, Dan Morgan dan@activeintime.com 07894 998333

Operator Software, Jamie Buck jamie@activeintime.com 07887 768312

Leisure Industry Events

Active Net

On 29-30th March, Natalie and David attend ActiveNet's annual event in Nottingham.

David presented a breakout session discussing "fitness with no boundaries" and how technology will impact the future of our industry.

Meanwhile, Natalie networked as part of the supplier-buyer sessions. 

David discussing how technology is changing the future of the fitness industry and how each gym operator needs to adapt - #ActiveNet2017

David discussing how technology is changing the future of the fitness industry and how each gym operator needs to adapt - #ActiveNet2017

"If restaurants have no seats, cars have no drivers, deliveries have no couriers, then fitness will have no boundaries" - David Minton, #ActiveNet2017

"If restaurants have no seats, cars have no drivers, deliveries have no couriers, then fitness will have no boundaries" - David Minton, #ActiveNet2017



Later that week, David presented at the BUCS Sport Health, Fitness & Physical Activity Network event again discussing the impact of technology witihin the leisure industry. 


Tech Will Shape Our Industry

Gerald Ratner, in 1991, achieved notoriety in the UK after making a speech in which he jokingly denigrated two of the jewellery products sold by his company. The so called ‘Ratner Effect’ caused the company’s near collapse. In the USA the hashtag #DeleteUber started trending in January and so far, 2017 for Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, it’s been annus horribilis. Although Kalanick has stepped down from Trump’s advisory council, prompting another mea culpa, the embattled ride hailing company is still surrounded by controversy.  Uber’s troubles have resulted in market share gains for Lyft, it’s main competitor, according to TXN Solutions which tracks debit and credit spending. Uber spend across the US has declined since January by 2% while Lyft has jumped 30% on average. In Uber’s home city, San Francisco, spend was down 8% while Lyft jumped 24%.

For IHRSA attendees in Los Angeles the ride hailing service Lyft became the de facto service and for those with ApplePay, a Lyft (get it?) was just a finger touch away…how simple and intuitive. Lyft’s use of the latest technology provides a seamless digital gateway of choice and many lessons for the fitness industry.  Consumers are in control and brands need to stop interrupting with bad technology and trying to sell unwanted products or services and instead start having smart conversations and start listening. Lyft has that conversation and is listening after every ride and if it wasn’t perfect, how could it have been better. When did you receive a request to rate your instructor, the class, the PT, the club even. For me? Never. Those fitness brands who offer transparency of pricing are growing faster than ever and the same brands are open about the good, and maybe not so good, conversations they are having with their customers but they listen and respond. Peer reviews of the workout, instructors and the all-important experience keeps everyone on their toes. 

At the Networking Roundtable chaired by Bryan O’Rourke, operators degraded the heritage CRM systems that the industry is suffering under. So, will traditional CRM systems be dead in 5 years time? Probably. Some heavy competition is being tested in California. Reserve with Google, gives deeper booking integration so local search, which relies on live timetable APIs, becomes more transactional. Previously booking buttons would link away to a third party provider but now its deeply integrated. Mindbody, Full Slate, Front Desk, Appointy are all currently live on Reserve with Google and ZingFit, MyTime and Genbook are coming soon. Only Mindbody were demonstrating this integration at IHRSA but hopefully all will be there next year in San Diego. More competition is coming from Facebook who have recently added local reservations and integrated bookings. Its Events calendar has been turned into a standalone app, allowing groups of friends to book and buy activities together. Airbnb are linking the consumer to a world of fitness experiences which taps Airbnb’s community to offer highly curated opportunities. Even Yelp is accelerating adoption of local listings to include payments and bookings. It won’t be long before Amazon make an announcement in this area, linked to Alexa searches.  All these companies, plus Apple, have fitness teams analysing the industry and how they can disrupt it, search and bookings is an obvious one.

Reserve with Google was live in LA so IHRSA delegates could logon to experience the granular search, from APIs of live timetables, linked to seamless integrated booking. Reserve puts the consumer at the centre of the search and through Artificial Intelligence (AI), constantly learning what type of class or activity you like, will deliver your personalised push notifications that addresses the question of which class, where and what time before you’ve thought of it. Those poised to take advantage of this new era are the boutiques, fitness without boundaries, community activities and meet-ups. In the UK public sector sites and trusts have been early adopters of live timetables and APIs, concretely demonstrating the value of digital. For those of you who are still using Pdf’s, and heaven forbid, a Pdf on an app, then help is at hand.  AiT (Active in Time) http://info.activeintime.com/operator-software-explained/ a UK start-up company provide the free software and for a small monthly charge APIs for those who want to be part of the digital revolution. Over 500 sites in the UK and Ireland are now live and pushing digital innovation.  AiT offers to integrate your live timetables into these new search and booking services as they become available in the UK.

IHRSA is known for its roundtables, as mentioned above, and keynotes. Soraya Darabi, a Young Global Leader of World Economic Forum said we can’t create emotional attachment if we stand for nothing. So Lyft drivers stand for great service, good value and working for a company they admire. From Soraya’s experience at her local gym in Brooklyn she wonders if the fitness industry, which has the potential, will ever develop the same emotional attachment. Martin Lindstrom, a brand futurist, suggested ‘living with the client’ or listening to the consumer because how many fitness sites have anything more than a feedback form? Lindstrom used the supermarket Lowes to show how it was ‘small data’ that helped turn around a failing brand, not big data. Lowes relaunch has some fun elements but Jonny Earle, alias Jonny Cupcakes was off the wall. He created a brand and inspired customer loyalty from shops that don’t sell cupcakes but t-shirts. My favourite was the breakfast t-shirt which you could only buy between 7-11am.

The 21st annual IHRSA financial panel moderated by Rick Caro emphasized that detailed knowledge of the industry is limited even when big investments are being made. l hope Rick will come to London in October for IHRSA Europe and put a panel of UK investors together who have access to the most detailed data on the industry thanks to LeisureDB. LeisureDB will be presenting in October its data analysis platform and the historical trends from its annual State of the UK Fitness Industry Report and live monitoring of the industry from its Social Media Fitness Index.

Historically prospectors in the Californian gold rush needed a shovel and a sieve, now influencers do the spade work for you. ‘Cycologists’ create 45 minute experiences you want to pay $30 for and who ignite avid followers. I’m following Shannon at Aura on Third, https://www.auraworkout.com  and Nick at Cycle House on Melrose, http://cyclehousela.com...Who are you following?

- David Minton, Director of LeisureDB - IHRSA 2017

Social Media Tips from Industry Leader

In this month's Health Club Management (Issue 3, 2017, pg.61-62), the social media manager at Xercise4Less discussed what lead them to win our Social Media Fitness Index Q2, Q3 & Q4 2016 reports. 

Xercise4Less consistently posts about the success of its members on its various social media channels...

Xercise4Less consistently posts about the success of its members on its various social media channels...


Joe Hall writes...

"We live in an era where people can turn themselves into a squeaky talking fox on Snapchat, or hit an ‘angry’ button at a piece of news content on Facebook. In fact, the nature of what you can do has become so varied that the whole concept of ‘social media’ – what exactly this now is – becomes quite hard to define.

I’d consider social media to be a mass get-together which no longer takes place in the park or in the pub, but in a Millennial third space: online. There might not be a see-saw or a pint of Tetley’s Smooth Flow in sight, but humans interact in this digital social media space in much the same way as they do offline in the local park or pub. That’s a result of psychological traits and human instinct.

But social media goes one step further: it amplifies human behaviour. It cuts out the routine, unexciting, dreary, monotonous matters that happen in the real world and just gives us the more dramatic, action-packed, high-end pleasure or high-end pain experiences.

As marketing decision-makers, we need to respect that the end consumer on social media is out for the thrills and spills. They’re certainly not scrolling through Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat to bask in any dullness or absorb meaningless promotional waffle.

At Xercise4Less, it’s my duty to ensure our social media appeals to our audience’s wants and needs. I’ve outlined four ways in which we do this.

  1. Deliver emotional conten
  2. Contests and gift
  3. A sense of belongin
  4. Post for your audience

Even when Xercise4Less was nominated for the Best Use of Social Media by the Leisure Database Company, we ensured the announcement was very much all about our members.

What lies ahead for the world of social media?
...Human behaviour and psychological traits should always be at the heart of any social media and marketing strategy". 

Original source: Health Club Management


1.07m Facebook likes, 76k Instagram followers, 285k Twitter followers, 13k YouTube subscribers* 

Xercise4Less ranks 1st in social media stakes

The number of YouTube views declined by 13% from Q3 2016

*Across the top 20 private brands in Q4 2016


In LeisureDB’s Q4 2016 edition of the Social Media Fitness Index, 12 brands have increased their Social Media Fitness score since Q1 2016. The top ranking brands from Q2 and Q3 2016 have remained the same, with Xercise4Less taking 1st place, Pure Gym in 2nd and Virgin Active 3rd.

Despite only achieving 3% growth, compared to 4% in Q3 2016, the number of Facebook likes has increased by 31k likes resulting in a total of 1.07m across the top 20 private brands.  8 of the 17 brands gained over 1k Facebook likes across the quarter with The Gym Group gaining the most with over 8k. Vital Health & Wellbeing saw an impressive 56% increase in their number of Facebook likes across the quarter.

The top 20 private brands achieved a 12% increase in the number of Instagram followers from Q3 2016. The brands also maintained the high Instagram activity levels seen in Q3 2016 with also 900 images and videos being posted during Q4 2016.

Against the backdrop of declining revenue and user growth throughout 2016, Twitter remained the second most popular platform for fitness brands. The average number of Twitter followers per brand was 22k, an increase of 1k on Q3 2016.

Surprisingly, the total number of YouTube views declined by 13% in Q4 2016 with The Gym Group losing 1.5m from their channel, however the total number of subscribers did increase by 10%.

David Minton, Director of LeisureDB, believes that the fitness industry should not underestimate the power of digital including that of social media. Minton says “Mobile has become a vital accessory to sports and fitness member’s and so operators across the public and private sectors need to reassure themselves they are thinking mobile first.

Social media has grown rapidly on the back of mobile and advertising spend is now bigger on mobile than any other platform. With technology racing ahead, social media platforms roll out new advertising offerings constantly. Digital isn’t a destination but a new way of thinking”. 



The reporting period is the 3 months from 1st October 2016 to 31st December 2016. LeisureDB who has been monitoring performance of the fitness industry for over 30 years compiled the analysis and resulting figures.


Further Information:

LeisureDB is a leading independent database specialist who provides key market intelligence and analysis across the industry. Established over 30 years ago, the company works with a wide range of fitness operators providing customer profiling reports, new site analysis and latent demand estimates. 

One Step Ahead

William Shakespeare famously said: “We know what we are, but know not what we may be”. Eloquently spoken personal trainers often recite this quote as their opening line – and I could make the same observation when asked, time and time again: “How big can the fitness industry grow?”

Like all business, timing is everything and this year we have seen more innovation than ever before. This has continued to drive the growth in the industry for the fourth year in a row; as detailed in the State of the Fitness Industry Report 2016 published by The Leisure Database Company. Highlights from the last year, include, the joint public and private penetration rate rising from 13.7% to 14.3%, the total number of fitness sites growing from 6,312 to 6,435 and the number of members jumping from 8.8m to 9.2m, the first time the industry has over 9m members. All of these contributing to the overall market value climbing from £4.3bn to £4.4bn in 2016.

Although, the disruptive business models of the so called ‘low cost’ brands are primarily responsible for driving the growth, it is not having an adverse effect on the overall value of the industry. Many brands have found the strength of the market allows them to charge above the publicity grabbing low-cost teens. These low cost brands are now responsible for around one third of all private fitness memberships. Whilst, the average monthly membership price has firmed from £18.23 in 2015 to £18.77 in 2016, reflecting the strength in latent demand for fitness across these sites. These first movers, which benefit from scale and new innovative in-house systems, which enable hour to hour and day to day management of the business, has allowed this sector to grow to over 450 sites with around 2m members in a very short period of time. The low cost sector saw a huge 41% increase in the number of clubs in the last twelve months and the clubs now have an average membership of 4,118. Immediate data science and enterprise security software are key to further growth.

In the six months since the publication of the 2016 Report, some major changes have taken place which are worth mentioning. Although Pure Gym, who have already opened another 17 clubs, remain at the top of the fitness operator leader board by number of sites (169), there’s a new number two. Following a buying spree, which included mostly Virgin Active clubs, Nuffield Fitness and Wellbeing Gyms have jumped from 5th to 2nd place with 112 clubs. They have gained 35 clubs and over 120,000 new members. Both, The Gym and David Lloyd Leisure, are in joint 4th spot; both have 82 sites and similar membership numbers. The franchise sector is having its best year so far; Anytime Fitness have opened 22 new clubs, taking their total to 91, Energie Fitness and their low cost brand Fit4Less have jumped to seventh place with 76 clubs and Snap Fitness has added 6 clubs to take them to 14.

Moving onto the public sector, there are 2,735 fitness sites, that collectively have over 3.3m fitness members and an estimated similar number on pay as you go. 41% are now managed by a trust.

For the third year running, the top three public operators by number of gyms remain with GLL, SLM and PfP. Freedom Leisure and Fusion are the only operators to move up the top 10 rankings in the last year, Fusion jumped to 4th and Freedom to 6th position.

For only the second time in 6 years, the number of closures across the public sector this year were higher than the number of openings. With 49 new gyms opening and 65 closing there was a net loss of 16 fitness sites. However, these sites were characterised as smaller gyms (24% less than the average), with fewer members, (27% less than average) and fewer facilities. So without investment they were never realistically going to compete.

In the past six months, we have also experienced the Pokemon Go fever, which overnight eclipsed social media platforms. The game achieved a higher number of daily users and longer time periods spent in the app than on WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Whilst I’m sure it didn’t set out to make more people more active, in just a few weeks it did. Well it was fun while it lasted and the latest data shows the craze is waning, but there are lessons for the fitness industry, people will take part in more activity if it’s fun, engaging and different, rather than dreary and repetitive. Time to think outside the box!

It’s a fast changing world and social media remains a difficult area for fitness brands to achieve both followers and then quality engagement. Amongst the top 20 private brands, Facebook is the most popular platform, with the number of ‘likes’ at just over 1m. Twitter is in second place with just over 275,000 followers across the top brands. The highly engaging Instagram has only 68,000 followers and still only half of the top twenty brands have a presence, shame on you. Checkout who’s doing well with some great screen shot examples in the Social Media Fitness Index Q3 Report.

It’s no coincidence, that the top four active wear brands, Nike+ Running, Under Armour Record, Adidas Train & Run, and Puma’s Pumatrac are all building fitness communities through activity tracking. Fitness industry brands could grow as quickly if they took advantage of the opportunities to connect with their consumers through repeat check-ins for classes, challenges, guest passes and push notifications. One day, my personalised push notification will come.

David Minton - Health Club Management Handbook 2017, page 72. 

Workout Wednesday

The LeisureDB girls took #WorkoutWednesday to new fitness extremes today by attending two epic sessions! We had an early 8am start at the Bankside Health Club to try out Tribe Team Training with PT Rob Kane. It was 45 mins of hardcore cardio and it certainly put us through our paces. With our muscles sore from the morning's session, we walked over to Speedflex (City of London) to try a circuit with Jeff Davis. Safe to say, it was much harder than expected and with our heart rates displayed on the MyZone screen, we had to push ourselves! 

Friend or Foe?

Are activity trackers a help or a hindrance when it comes to weight loss? 

David Minton, Director of LeisureDB, featured in the January 2017 issue of Health Club Management discussing activity trackers and wearable technology. 

"It's good that wearable technology and physical activity trackers are being debated, but we need to put them into context - we're only at the start of the journey of their functionality. We're at the stage where we can only use tracking information as an indication and not take it too seriously. If companies like Nike and Microsoft have withdrawn their devices, it shows we're at a very early stage. 

There's so much confusion over healthy eating and weight management. Monitoring activity is only part of the answer and people need to be careful about setting their calorific intake based on the information from a tracker: most people tend to over-estimate their physical activity levels and under-estimate what they eat. 

Going forward, to make trackers more effective, there needs to be more use of artificial intelligence. There also needs to be more gamification. This needs to be fun - it shouldn't be boring or dreary."

Find the original article via Health Club Management. 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

December 2016...

Merry Christmas from LeisureDB and see you in 2017!

The power of storytelling with athletes...

Marvin Amankwa-Dei, CEO of The Sweat Experience, has written an article about the power of storytelling with athletes...

Sports is a universal language, in fact it is one of the few languages that resonates with everyone and brings people together. Within this language, the core communicators are athletes. Athletes are driven competitors, they use their goals to pursue sporting adventures, are willing to travel the world in search of their dreams all the while striving to be the best version of themselves. They are the epitome of breaking both physical and mental barriers, through this - inspiring the world.

Fans are the lifeblood within any professional sports, and in essence, some could argue the main reason why anybody in the sporting world succeeds. Fans develop an emotional and long term attachment to a sport, a team or a specific athlete, an attachment which usually happens through family influence, personal sport preferences, and most importantly the media. Broadcasting allows fans to relate to athletes on a personal level, and this has traditionally served as a vehicle to celebrate, support and illustrate an athletes journey.

The traditional means used to highlight athlete's performances in sports has mainly been through television broadcasting, where sports networks such as Sky Sports, ESPN and Eurosport have given athletes a platform to showcase their achievements, and in essence, their journey. They have therefore served as the link that has connects the athlete and the fans through initiatives such as interviews, which allows the fans to relate to the athletes on a more personal, and somewhat meaningful way. Documentaries have also served as vital in terms of highlighting the athlete's journey throughout their career, giving sports fans a greater and more in depth insight into the “people” behind the athletes that they love and support. A prime example of this link between athletes and fans is Sky Sports Footballs's Greatest Series which covers the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi & Zinedine Zidane, as well as ESPN's E:60 documentary covering the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady & Cam Newton & Steph Curry. All of these have played an invaluable role in enabling sports fans to develop an emotional connection with these athletes, by strengthening their understanding of their story. This link is further supported by written media, which all work towards solidifying the link between the fan and the athlete.

In addition to the media, sports brands and sponsorship have played a prominent role in narrating an athletes story, and thereby building on this link. Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight identified athletes as storytellers early on, placing the first Nike shoes on the feet of athletes at the Olympic trials in 1972, with the understanding that the legacy and the growth of athletes would become perhaps the most powerful tool to use when selling their products. The power of the athlete's appeal is ever growing, and brands recognize this, creating powerful leverage tool that benefits both parties. Influential sports athletes have a special connection with fans – a connection that can be used to both athlete's and the brand's advantage, and deliver maximum impact for both. Understandably, this directly impacts and strengthens that relationship between athlete and fan. Fans follow athlete's stories, wear their products and therefore maintain and fortify that relationship. Meanwhile, companies benefit from the powerful tool of the athlete's journey and the fan's attachment.

With the world embracing transparency, social media has given athletes the power to make the transition from being talked about to being their own journalist. The way we connect with the world has changed drastically through social media. News now reaches us the moment it happens, there no need to search for a newspaper to find out what has happened today, in every spare moment we are more focused on a screen- be it our phones or tablets, than anything happening around us. The amount of time spent on smartphones/tablets/digital media has increased dramatically and has become one of the main vessels for news stories reaching us.

Athletes have always been one of the most effective and profitable ways for companies to relate to and reach consumers. Sport brings out passions, promotes well being, is a prime illustration of sacrifice, commitment, hope,and creates in essence a monopolised fan base that no other industry can replicate.

There is no more effective way to beat competitors, than linking some of the world's top athletes with the product, and using social media to strengthen this has become a fundamental tool - again bringing the athlete to the fan's level, creating a personal and emotional relationship and thereby strengthening that bond further. Social networks are in many ways, the shortest most efficient means to deliver an athletes message to the fan. A renowned sports athlete serves as a credible and inspirational figure. The athlete therefore delivers to the sponsor, a customer base of millions of people who every minute of every day are interested in what they have to say, what they feel, what is going on in their lives, and even what they had to eat that day. There is therefore no need to visit a shop to see the latest trainers that an athlete is wearing, when millions of customers can see through one tweet, and wearing these clothes or using these products only goes to further cement this relationship between the athlete and the fan, as well as saving companies millions in advertising costs. It has never been easier to receive on the spot information about your idol, and companies have recognised and used this to their advantage in promoting their product.

As discussed, sponsorship plays an intrinsic role in an athlete's career. Creating this direct relationship between athletes and aspiring athletes means that from a commercial perspective, it would provide clarification and validation amongst potential sponsors, thereby providing greater access to the athlete while strengthening their understanding of the athlete's achievements, milestones and future goals. This would inevitably make athlete discovery a more unique experience, both commercially and on a personal level. Imagine being able to connect with your inspirational athlete for advice, being able to ask questions, share ideas and become a stronger athlete because of it. Having the support to start that journey, with the maximum impact, inspiration and drive. Building a lasting legacy - that would surely be the ultimate impact of the journey.


Sun, SIBEC & surprised winners!

A great week at LeisureDB....

  • Nat attended the annual SIBEC Europe Conference in Tenerife last week. Alongside two days of fitness industry networking and meetings, she enjoyed 25 degrees of winter sun and the stunning Ritz Carlton hotel and it's 9 pools. YES, 9! The event was wrapped up with an amazing dinner at a banana plantation and a beach party! 
Dinner at the banana plantation...

Dinner at the banana plantation...

Spinning with a view...

Spinning with a view...

View from the funicular down towards the beach...

View from the funicular down towards the beach...

The winners!

The winners!

  • On Saturday, David attended and presented at the annual Energie Evolution Conference where he discussed 'Innovation Impacting the Fitness Industry'. You can read a full write up regarding his talk, via this link


  • Last night, the Metal Box Factory hosted the inaugural Christmas pub quiz. The evening was run by Moonpig/Photobox and raised money for XLP London, a charity working to create positive futures for young people. The fantastic event included a Christmas jumper competition, plenty of pizza and a very unlikely winner! We just went for a laugh but managed to scoop the winning prize!!