Fitness is getting more fashionable, which is good news for the franchise industry…
There are over 7,000 gyms in the UK for the first time, up by 4.5 per cent year on year, while total membership is approaching 10 million (up two per cent).
One in every 7 people in the UK is a member of a gym, according to the 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report. And more growth is predicted.
David Minton, director of LeisureDB, which published the report, says: “After being widely quoted from last year’s report about ‘the golden age of fitness’, I’m sticking to my prediction that the period up to 2020 remains the time for fitness to continue to break all barriers.”
Fitness looks like a good industry to get into, but setting up a gym on your own requires in-depth knowledge of the sector and putting significant capital at risk.
However, many of the top UK fitness brands are franchises, which may be an easier route in. Typically, the franchisor helps you choose the right location, fit out your centre and arrange launch marketing. As a franchisee, you benefit from its training and sector experience.
Which type of gym franchise is for you?
Some franchises offer the traditional full service gym, with exercise equipment, rooms for classes and a team of staff. Others, often smaller, provide members with 24-hour card access, with staff available only between certain hours, and off er ‘budget’ membership.
David says: “At present ‘boutique studios’ are increasing - smaller, stylish places with high class instructors, expensive toiletries and healthy food. They deliver an experience, rather than just an exercise session - all for a premium price.”
Some of the bigger fitness franchises are already incorporating this. Mike Carr, sales manager at the énergie Fitness franchise, says: “We are rolling out the YARD Club, a boutique-type space within the larger club. Technology monitors class participants’ heart rates, so trainers can safely deliver individualised workouts.”
Competition means that keeping up with the latest type of workout or exercise class can make or break your gym business, so choosing a franchise that keeps up with trends is important.
Currently, many gyms are offering functional fitness - group classes where specialist trainers deliver routines that train the muscles for daily tasks, while focusing on core stability.
Sport England’s Active Lives Adult Survey 2018 showed more people went to fitness classes, especially yoga, pilates and high intensity interval training (HIIT).
An extra 84,800 people are doing combat sports, martial arts, boxing and boxing fitness classes. Many fitness franchises are already on to this.
A future trend?
Norwegian chain HITIO Gym, recently launched in the UK, brings together combat sports with a trend new to the UK - families with children exercising at the same time.
Chief executive Mark Chambers says: “We plan to open two gyms here in Q1 2019 that off er daily classes in martial arts for children, self defence for women and boxing fitness. We also have the usual gym machines and free weights. It means parents can exercise while their children are doing classes.”
HITIO is targeting market town locations and is looking for franchisees keen on community involvement - another current fitness industry trend that encourages franchisees to promote the business through sponsorship and at local events.
Impact of technology
The rise of wearable technology and smartphone fitness apps might be expected to negatively impact gym use, but David says it’s just the opposite. “We found no evidence that these have reduced gym membership,” he explains. “In fact, we found that apps have encouraged some people to join, as they have become motivated to monitor their fitness.
Mark adds: “We offer énergie Fitness members an app that links to wearable tech such as a Fitbit, so their gym and outdoor workouts can be brought together in one place, driving them to better their performance. Apps can also bring members together by offering them the chance to take part in member competitions, which increases the community aspect of the club and helps member retention.”
Combining business and passion
Mike Racz has 40 franchised businesses across several sectors, including food. He got into the fitness industry with an Anytime Fitness gym in Gateshead in 2017 and now has seven.
Mike says: “I’ve always been into fitness and used to be a personal trainer, so this combines business and passion.”
Comparing fitness to food and drink franchises, he says: “With a coffee or pizza business, you’re always fighting to get repeat business from hundreds of customers daily. With Anytime Fitness, your customers are loyal for at least 12 months and hopefully longer.
“Retention is vital in the fitness industry, even more so than getting new members. You have customers that will stay with you for years and it’s great that you can nurture relationships with them in a way you can’t in other sectors.
“Regarding staffing, in hospitality you’re easily looking at 20-30 staff per store, but at an Anytime Fitness club it’s more like five or six. With less staff overheads and the longevity of customers, it’s a great platform to run a successful and profitable business.”
Are you fit for a fitness franchise?
Running a successful fitness centre takes more than a passion for fitness and a desire to make money. Here are some points to consider:
Owning a fitness centre will test your business skills more than your capacity for bicep curls. Fitness franchises offer training and support in setting up and running your business, but previous management experience helps.
It pays to get involved. Many fitness franchises are happy for you to be an investor who appoints a manager to run your fitness centre, but if you want your business to grow be proactive in setting business goals, motivating your team and prioritising marketing, both in your community and on social media.
Fitness means working with people. People management skills and customer awareness help.
Fitness franchises typically start at around £100,000, so ensure you have enough capital behind you.