2019 STATE OF THE UK FITNESS INDUSTRY REPORT - OUT NOW

 
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The 2019 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report reveals that the UK health and fitness industry is healthier than it has ever been. It has more gyms, more members and a greater market value than ever before. Several key milestones have been achieved over the last 12 months. The total UK membership has broken the 10 million mark and the industry is now worth more than £5 billion for the first time. The elusive 15% penetration rate has not only been reached but exceeded with it now standing at 15.6%. In the UK, 1 in every 7 people is a member of a gym.

The 2019 report highlights that the industry, over the 12 month period to the end of March 2019, has seen increases of 2.9% in the number of fitness facilities, 4.7% in the number of members and 4.2% in market value. The rate of growth for members and market value is higher than last year across the public and private sectors. Has the private sector weathered the rise of the boutique studios? Has the public sector finally stabilised against the low-cost market?

Pure Gym and GLL remain the UK’s leading private and public operators (by number of gyms and members). In 2018, Pure Gym became the first operator to reach 200 clubs and this year they are joined by GLL (with 203 gyms).

Commenting on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “As seen in the record-breaking figures from this report, the UK is enjoying a golden period of growth and exciting development across the fitness sector. It’s a great time to be working and reporting on the industry. As operators compete against the at-home fitness revolution, boutique studios and tech-enabled fitness, they must continue to provide more than just gyms; experiences are essential to hold customers attention. The last year has seen continued investment into ‘fitness-tainment’ and there is still plenty of opportunity for creativity and growth.”

 

Summary of Key Facts

  • The number of fitness facilities in the UK is up from 7,038 to 7,239 this year.

  • Total membership grew by 4.7% to 10.4 million.

  • Total market value increased by 4.2% to £5.1 billion.

  • The UK penetration rate passed 15% for the first time.

  • 215 new fitness facilities opened in the last 12 months, down from 275 in 2018.

 

Notes

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 2019. 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 2019 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report.

Elevate 2019

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Yesterday was the opening day of the annual Elevate event at London ExCel. It’s the UK’s largest physical activity trade show and hosts over 350 exhibitors and 300 speakers.

David was a guest speaker and his presentation about the “golden age of fitness” revealed headline stats from the 2019 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report which is due out next week. He also chaired a panel discussing “what do customers really want?” with speakers from the Bannatyne Group, Sky, PromotePR and Hussle (formerly PayasUGym).

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Fitness is getting more fashionable

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.”

Training trends

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.

Original article: https://www.what-franchise.com/business-advice/running-a-franchise/fitness-is-getting-more-fashionable

Aggregators - To aggregate or not to aggregate, that is the question

The health and fitness industry has been slow to adopt aggregators. Are clubs right to be cautious, or are they missing out on business? Kath Hudson finds out more…

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2018 issue 9

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If you’ve ever used an aggregator service, such as Expedia or lastminute.com, to book a flight or find a holiday, you’ll know from a consumer’s point of view how useful they can be to both find what you want and get a good deal: they make the information transparent and give the benefit of customer reviews, special offers and consolidated services.

However, the health and fitness industry is very different from travel. One’s global, while the other is local. People are motivated to go on holiday, but can be resistant to exercise. Health clubs want to build day-to-day loyalty and relationships, while the travel industry is less concerned with this.

There are a number of other reasons to be cautious, including the fear of losing control of data and the customer base, and concerns about paying a commission to get the same customers or being forced into discounting.

However, if you always do what you always did, you always get what you’ve always had, so if the industry wants to increase penetration rates, it needs to start looking for different ways to mobilise new audiences.

Aggregators bring extra marketing budgets and new technology to the table, which can translate into different customers being brought into the industry, so they’re definitely worth consideration.

If you’re thinking about giving aggregators a go, shop around first. There are a number of different choices in terms of business model and you need to know whether they focus on B2C or B2B.

Choose one that cares about growing the market and as Nishal Desai, co-founder of imin says: “Go forward with your eyes open and hands on the steering wheel. Choose to work with those companies in a way that puts you firmly in control and keeps you there.”

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Chay's 13-minute circuit

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With the days getting shorter and weather getting colder, day-to-day exercises such as walking to the shops will soon be replaced by a quick drive in the car. Instead of having a lovely picnic in the park, you may soon be watching a movie under a blanket.

If you are worried about putting on a few lbs, don't fret! I have you covered. 

Follow this 13-minute circuit, 3 times a week to burn calories and define your muscles over the coming months.

All exercises should be completed at 100% effort with 45 seconds between sets.

Set 1 - 30s Burpees, 30s Jumping Jacks, 30s Mountain Climbers

Set 2 - 30s Jogging, 15s Press Ups, 15s Sit Ups, 15s Squats, 15s Plank

Set 3 - 30s Burpees, 30s Jumping Jacks, 30s Mountain Climbers

Set 4 - 30s Jogging, 15s Press Ups, 15s Sit Ups, 15s Squats, 15s Plank

Set 5 - 20s Lunges, 20s Heel Kicks, 20s Donkey Kicks (Left Leg), 20s Donkey Kicks (Right Leg)

Set 6 - 30s Sit & Reach, 30s Downward Dog, 60s Cat & Cow Stretches

Once you have finished, why not treat yourself to poached eggs on wholemeal toast? This meal will aid recovery and set you up for the rest of the day.

Why not start tomorrow!

Sweat by BXR

By Chay Westall

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the LeisureDB team (plus friends of the company) headed to Anthony Joshua’s BXR gym in Marylebone to experience the new cardio class, Sweat. Utilising cutting-edge technology, this 45-minute VersaClimber session offered us a total body workout. On average, the class burns 8-9 extra calories a minute than the equivalent group cycling sessions…. meaning you could have just over 3 glasses of red wine, and not feel guilty!

 
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Just don’t think for one second that these classes are a walk in the park! It’s rightfully named the “Sweat studio”! The nightclub environment guarantees to have your muscles burning, but at least you’ll complete the class with a grin on your face as you sing and climb to the beat.

Not only can you feel the calories fall away, the engineering and design of the VersaClimber means you are exercising in a way that causes zero stress to the body, unlike running or CrossFit classes.

If you’re tired of the same old circuits or spinning classes, this unique, climbing-based class will definitely mix up your fitness routine!

Give it a go! What have you got to lose?

 
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2018 STATE OF THE UK SWIMMING INDUSTRY REPORT - OUT NOW

 
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The 2018 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report reveals that the number of swimming pool sites has remained static over the last 12 months. There has been a marginal increase of 0.1%.

 

Nuffield and GLL remain the UK’s leading private and public swimming operators (by number of sites). Public leisure trust GLL lead the way with 142 swimming centres, followed by Nuffield who have 110 clubs with a swimming pool.

 

Over the twelve-month period to the end of March 2018, the swimming industry has seen fewer new pool facilities built than across the previous year, but there have also been fewer closures.

 

The 2018 report highlights that 84% of the UK population live within 2 miles of one of the 3,161 swimming pool sites.

 

Commenting on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “It seems all types of water sport participation continues to grow and it’s not just down to global warming and the need to cool off! There is in fact genuine interest in all areas of water based activities and the fitness it can bring. Operators constantly report growth in swimming numbers, lessons and the usage of outdoor pools. However, this report shows that supply is reducing; across the private sector the number of pool sites has fallen from 1,549 in 2010 to 1,467 in 2018, and across the public sector from 1,725 in 2010 to 1,694 in 2018. Although the 22 new swim sites built over the last 12 months will improve the quality of swimming stock for the consumer, the numbers are failing to keep up with demand.”.

 

Summary of Key Facts

  • The number of swimming sites in the UK is up from 3,158 to 3,161 this year.
  • 22 new public and private swimming pool sites opened in the last 12 months, down from 34 in 2017.
  • Public pay and play fees increased by 3% to £4.38.

 

Notes

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 2018. 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 2018 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report.

2018 STATE OF THE UK FITNESS INDUSTRY REPORT - OUT NOW

 
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The 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report reveals that the UK health and fitness industry is continuing to strengthen. It has more gyms, more members and a greater market value than ever before. There are over 7,000 gyms in the UK for the first time, total membership is approaching 10 million and market value is just under £5 billion. The penetration rate remains at 14.9%, so 1 in every 7 people in the UK is a member of a gym.

 

The 2018 report highlights that the industry, over the twelve-month period to the end of March 2018, has seen increases of 4.6% in the number of fitness facilities, 2% in the number of members and 2.9% in market value. But the devil is in the detail as the rate of growth is lower than last year; previously the UK saw increases of over 5% in both members and market value. The report also shows distinct differences in the performance of the key metrics between the public and private sectors over the last 12 months. Can the public sector stabilise amid ever increasing competition from the growing private low-cost market? Will the private sector reach the growth rates of the previous year again or is the rise of boutique studios beginning to take effect?

 

Pure Gym and GLL have strengthened their positions as the UK’s leading private and public operators (by number of gyms and members). Pure Gym have become the first operator to reach 200 clubs and impressively passed the 1 million member mark earlier this year. GLL, with 194 gyms, are also likely to break the 200 milestone in the next year.

 

Commenting on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “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. It has for the past six years, after all; and as the consumer gets more personalisation, localisation, seamless booking and payment options, taking part will become easier. The next challenge will be broader consumer adoption… could we aim for 20% penetration in the UK by 2020?”

 

Summary of Key Facts

  • The number of fitness facilities in the UK is up from 6,728 to 7,038 this year.

  • Total membership grew by 2% to 9.9 million.

  • Total market value increased by 2.9% to £4.9 billion.

  • The UK penetration rate remained at 14.9%, the same as last year.

  • 275 new fitness facilities opened in the last 12 months, up from 272 in 2017.

 

Notes

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 2018. 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 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report.

Project Fitness UK 2018

UK FITNESS CLUB MARKET POWERS AHEAD AS CONSUMERS EMBRACE HEALTH AND WELLNESS

£5.1bn UK fitness club market achieved annual growth of 7.1%, with strong expansion forecast over the next 5 years.

Project Fitness UK 2018, the definitive new report from Allegra Strategies, reveals the total UK fitness club market serves an estimated 10.2 million members across more than 7,000 outlets, with circa 5% outlet growth forecast over the next five years.
The research was produced in partnership with leading leisure market intelligence specialists Leisure Database Company and leading retail and leisure field experts, The Local Data Company.
Project Fitness UK 2018 states the private sector now makes up more than half of the total fitness club market, with an estimated 6.8 million members across 4,300 gyms.
Property scarcity and low membership penetration among a new generation of value-conscious consumers represent the biggest challenges to fitness club growth. Operators must also respond to tightening consumer spend and decreased investment associated with on-going Brexit uncertainty.


Boutiques pick up the pace as smaller independents feel the burn
Allegra records strong growth in the boutique sector over the last 5 years. The burgeoning segment has successfully innovated beyond the traditional fitness club proposition, specialising in group-based, instructor-led classes. There are an estimated 250 boutique outlets in the UK, with Allegra identifying appetite for further investment in the segment.
As of May 2017, there are an estimated 2,077 independent fitness club operators in the UK according to the Leisure Database Company. A lack of capital investment funds and competition from low-cost operators is increasingly marginalising this segment.
Low-cost is the fastest-growing market segment, opening an average of 75 new outlets and attracting an estimated 300,000 new members every year. With 200 sites and 1 million members, Pure Gym is the UK’s leading low-cost private fitness club chain, followed by Anytime Fitness with 146 outlets and The Gym Group with 130.


Increased health awareness fuels UK growth but north-south prices poles apart
Profound societal changes, such as urbanisation, preventative healthcare and a focus on wellbeing are fuelling growth in UK fitness club memberships. Increasing recognition that exercise is essential to wellbeing is driving the rising popularity of fitness activities among UK consumers. 86% surveyed claim exercise is essential to their wellbeing and 32% state regular exercise is their most important health priority.
Harnessing the UK’s enthusiasm for health and wellness is a key challenge for fitness club operators. While 81% of consumers believe fitness is important, only 39% are happy with their current fitness level and just 23% agree that gym memberships are necessary for staying fit.
The average monthly membership spend across the UK is £29.68, with Allegra revealing substantial regional divide in terms of average monthly membership outlay. Consumers in the South are paying £41.07, nearly twice as much as those in the North at £22.75.


Digital integration and customisation will redefine the fitness club experience
Exercise motivation varies significantly between demographics, highlighting that operators must tailor their approach to products and services rather than adopting a ‘one size fits all’ model.
Key opportunities to hone revenue streams across core growth demographics include digital integration for millennials, holistic healthcare services for older consumers, and innovative group fitness concepts for women.
Technology will increasingly drive growth as operators move towards full-scale digital integration. Adopting new and emerging technologies, such as wearable devices and digitally-integrated equipment, will be essential for attracting new members and maximising membership retention in the coming 5-10 years.


The health and wellness market outlook
Allegra CEO and founder, Jeffrey Young said: “I’m very excited by recent market developments in the health and wellness sector. The fundamentals of the industry remain strong as UK consumers seek to improve wellbeing through the adoption of exercise for a healthy lifestyle. I see positive trends in the long-term and great opportunities for fitness clubs to continue innovating by offering new products and developing their membership propositions.”
Jeffrey Young will present key findings from Project Fitness 2018 UK at the Allegra Health and Wellness Summit, taking place at Balance Festival, 11 May 2018, Old Truman Brewery, London.
The Project Fitness UK 2018 Report is now available to purchase from Allegra Strategies.


Editor’s Notes
Sources

  • Over 100 online and telephone interviews with industry leaders, including CEOs and Managing Directors of major fitness club chains, key suppliers, industry associations and other industry participants (May 2016 – September 2017)
  • Over 7,500+ online surveys with UK consumers (May – September 2017) and in conjunction with Men’s Health and Women’s Health.
  • Desk research including trade press, company financials and online data sources

Allegra Strategies

Established in 1999, and part of Allegra Group, Allegra Strategies is a leading-edge research and strategy consulting firm based in central London. Since 2002, Allegra has published research in the health and wellness sector, supporting companies globally across the health and wellness value chain and adjacent retail, leisure and consumer lifestyle sectors.
Working closely with clients across critical M&A activity, growth strategies, customer segmentation research, global expansion, pricing strategies, and NPD, Allegra analysts are well-placed to answer key business questions and help clients harness their full growth and profit potential.
Allegra Group is the owner and creator of the Balance Festival, UK’s largest celebration of the thriving health and wellness movement, and the producer of the annual UK Health + Wellness Summit. Allegra Group is also the author of the London Wellness Guide.

The dumb-bell economy: inside the booming business of exercise

As millennials become increasingly preoccupied with their physical and mental wellbeing, has the gym become the new pub?

Jo Ellison, FEBRUARY 9, 2018


An imposing corner building south of Green Park, in Piccadilly, 12 St James’s Street occupies an area associated with London’s gentlemen of leisure. It’s the home, after all, of TS Eliot’s Bustopher Jones — the “cat about town” — who had eight different clubs and white spats. The street, rich in the grandiose architecture of wealth, is studded with members-only bolt-holes.

Twelve St James’s Street also houses an exclusive club. But unlike its neighbours its allure is not in the promise of cognacs, cigars and the company of other men but in technologies designed to “redefine your potential”. E by Equinox, which opened officially last week, is a gym commanding a £500 initiation fee, plus a £350 monthly subscription, in return for sport’s most advanced innovations. Beneath the original cornicing, nestled among vast marble colonnades, runners work out in a mezzanine area, designated the Precision Running Zone, where a suite of treadmills fitted with O2 vaporisers filter out nitrogen gas to allow the body to work harder with less stress; a Pilates studio offers the Cadillac tower, from which you can balance suspended in a state of perfect spinal alignment; and an on-site valet sits ready to launder your gym kit and hand out clean towels impregnated with the tang of eucalyptus.

The dumb-bell economy is booming. Members’ clubs and boutique gyms (those smaller outfits offering specific, signature workouts via pay-as-you-go classes) are mushrooming in every metropolitan area in which affluent folk seek a spin class. They’ve become a magnet for celebrities, too: where once the paparazzi loitered outside hotel bars until the small hours hoping for a snap of someone in a state of drunken disarray, today they stalk the morning streets searching for A-listers running into Zumba lessons, or doing ballet at the barre. Drop by Barry’s Bootcamp on Euston Road on a Saturday morning, and you may well find yourself doing an hour-long “thousand-calorie workout” alongside Victoria Beckham (who, it is said, seldom breaks a sweat).

Where once consumers looked for acquisitions to express their status, our spending habits are shifting towards more holistic expenditures. In the past 20 years, the leisure industry has emerged as one of the most dynamic, disruptive and fashionable of forces. It’s all part of a new focus on the “lifestyle experience”, a trend that has possessed consumers and found luxury brands spiking with sporty new offerings — sneakers, leggings, apps and accessories — designed to harness the burgeoning market. As Harvey Spevak, the executive chairman and managing partner of the Equinox group, likes to say: “Health is the new wealth.”

David Minton, the founder and managing director of LeisureDB, who has been tracking UK consumer habits for more than 30 years, predicts the next two years will be a “golden age” of fitness. “The industry is likely to hit several milestones in 2018,” he explains. “The number of UK gyms is on course to go over 7,000 for the first time, total membership should exceed 10m, market value is expected to reach £5bn and the penetration rate should easily surpass 15 per cent. The growth will only be limited to the imagination of those pushing the boundaries.”

Likewise in the US. According to Marketwatch, Americans spent $19bn on gym memberships last year — and a further $33bn on sports equipment. But the study’s most significant feature was the scale of millennial spending: 36 per cent of 18- to 36-year-olds paid for a gym membership — twice the percentage of people older than them.

On a Wednesday lunchtime in midwinter, Equinox’s new Piccadilly outpost reflects these statistics rather well. The turnout is fairly evenly split between men and women, and most of them appear to be under 35. Some wear the hipster uniform — hoodies, man-buns, beards — others are more tidy and corporate-looking. A young woman performs a series of hanging leg lifts — up and down, up and down — with the same core strength and grace as the gymnast Simone Biles.

“They’re Type A personalities,” explains Spevak. A Bronx-born executive whose own schedule runs to three sessions a week with a personal trainer, five weekly runs on the treadmill and, when he can, a couple of SoulCycle classes, he’s fairly Type A himself. “They want it all,” he continues. “They want to figure out a way they can feel good, look good, be active, and be with like-minded individuals as well as thrive in whatever their personal objectives are . . . That could be their career, their relationship with their spouse, getting ready for their wedding, or post-divorce. It runs the range. Everybody’s got their own objectives. But our mission is helping people maximise the potential within themselves, and nobody does a better job at that than we do.”

Part of the US-based Equinox portfolio, E by Equinox is the second of the group’s standalone gyms of its type — the first opened in Kensington in 2012 — and the most expensive. Further Equinox fitness clubs will open in Shoreditch and Bishopsgate in late 2019. According to Spevak, the club offers “full-service luxury fitness using science-based research to create an experience that satisfies a high-performance lifestyle”. He wouldn’t mind at all if I described it as the Hermès of the exercise world.

Spevak has spent 25 years working in the leisure sector. He was an early gym pioneer. At Equinox, he oversees a portfolio that also includes Blink Fitness, a more accessible gym that operates 65 clubs across the US, and SoulCycle, the cult exercise boutique they purchased in 2011, and which currently operates 84 US outposts (it will arrive in London soon). Last month, they bought a minority stake in Rumble, a boxing boutique whose unique selling points are their “teardrop-shaped, water-filled” training bags and a “premium nightclub quality sound system”. It currently has two branches in New York.

As a privately owned company, Spevak won’t disclose the numbers, but business is brisk: Equinox’s 92 clubs currently have about 350,000 global members, who spend a “blended average” of about $3,500 each year. Blink Fitness is closing in on almost 400,000 members spending about $250 a year. Spevak will spend a further $1bn “in fresh capital” on reinvestment and expansion over the next five years. “We’ve always been a high-growth company,” says Spevak. “And high growth as we see it means growing 10 to 15 per cent from a profit perspective. That’s how we’ve grown for years, and that’s how we continue to grow.”

Meanwhile, next year will see the first Equinox hotel opening in New York’s Hudson Yards, the first in a rollout of Equinox hotels earmarked for billions more in investment. The hotels will be founded on the same full-service ideal as the clubs. “Our vision for the hotels is to cater to the high-performance traveller,” says Spevak, “and we think about it as we do, historically, from a science perspective. We call it MNR — movement, nutrition and recovery — where a high-performance lifestyle and a healthy lifestyle is a three-legged stool.” The clubs will also be a key feature of the hotels, where local members will be encouraged to work out with hotel guests in order to curate a more “authentic” traveller experience. “Because, if you think about it,” says Spevak, “nobody wants to hang out in the hotel restaurant or the hotel lobby with another business traveller.”

Twenty-five years ago, it was a different story. In 1999, investors weren’t interested in building gyms. “When I went to landlords and to investors, trying to raise capital, they would say to us, ‘You’re in a fad business, I don’t believe you’re going to exist in the future,’ ” says Spevak. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of stickiness in the gym world. “It was very mom-and-pop-y,” he continues, “and the financial and real estate community just didn’t want unstable business in their space. They didn’t want something that connoted something that they didn’t feel good about.”

Sitting in St James’s, in an area unparalleled for its grand associations, it’s clear how far that attitude has shifted. In the current landscape, businesses clamber over themselves to advertise their proximity to clubs. The gym has become a landmark feature in areas looking to gentrify and regenerate. And we’re all signing up. No question, millennials have had a profound influence on this new enthusiasm for exercise. As pubs continue to close at a rate of 29 a week, according to the Campaign for Real Ale, the culture of leisure is changing. That young people today prefer to sweat pints than to sink them is a fact we must consider. A study conducted by the student letting app SPCE last year found drink featuring last on the list of student expenditures, with 18 per cent of the 2,000 people asked saying they spent nothing on alcohol at all.

Additionally, as our lives have become busier, atomised and more urban, the gym has emerged as the new place in which to gather: to be part of a community. As Minton points out, not only are millennials more likely to buy gym memberships, they’re driving the boutique business as well. The rise of the group workout, club membership and all of the attendant accessories that come with it have become part of the new language of “wellness”. Self-care is now considered a luxury indulgence, and one’s club the new status symbol.

“Today’s consumer has an insatiable appetite for healthy living, or — as we call it — high-performance living,” says Spevak. “And that is a dramatic change from 25 years ago. If you were a health nut in 1995, you probably went to the gym twice a week. Today, being a health nut means taking two classes a day. The consumer wants to be healthy and feel good and look good. And you don’t just see it in our category, you see it in beauty and skincare. You see it manifesting itself in so many different ways.”

Where you work out, who you work out with, and what you wear to work out in have become totems of fashionability. Spevak traces the first shoots of the wellness trend to 9/11, when he saw a jump in the number of people becoming focused on holistic health and taking care of themselves. The proliferation of gyms in the years after was also a product of the 2008 recession, which opened a swath of prime real estate the new leisure entrepreneurs could exploit.

 
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But more than anything, the fitness boom must be a corollary of a digital revolution in which working out has become a ubiquitous feature of our online life; our social media feeds are saturated with videos and images of people doing dance classes, or advanced yoga poses, or supping post workout smoothies. Podcasts proliferate with meditation guides, sleep guides and inspirational lectures to make us more active. The gym hashtag has become a key signifier of a tribal society seeking to identify itself as part of a gang. Could one of the weirder ironies of phone addiction, and our increasing self-absorption, be to make us more health-conscious? As if to speak to precisely that point, I observe a young gym-goer in a crop top and leggings flashing selfies as she readies to work out.

“People go to the gym because they want to identify with the people they see there,” says Spevak. It’s presumably this same instinct — to engage and be seen as being part of something — that possesses a world-famous star such as Beyoncé or Victoria Beckham, who could afford to build state-of-the-art gyms in their basement, to attend group classes in public instead. “While we believe the home experience is growing, it’s a compliment,” says Spevak. “But at home you don’t get the chance to be with your community; and your community could be your bestie, or your partner. Or just like-minded people that you want to hang out with.”

Minton agrees that a gym’s success depends on cultivating this tribal loyalty, delivering a unique experience and then selling product that marks its members out. “Some of the most interesting clubs are those that are expanding into less obvious areas,” he says. “We now have over 600 boutiques across the UK and they are growing faster than traditional gyms as they have a smaller footprint and can take pop-up spaces. One of the best examples is Boom Cycle at the Curtain hotel [in east London].” The club takes over the hotel’s nightclub during the day, “and then morphs back into a club at night”.

The experiential market is throwing a lifeline to retailers, as well. “The fashion link is growing,” adds Minton. “Fitness apparel brands like Lululemon, Sweaty Betty, Reebok, Nike all now offer free in-store workouts, which provide them with an opportunity to market their brand lifestyles more directly and forge a connection with the consumer.”

The E by Equinox tribe is a crack elite. At the bar, an alpha type with hipster hair takes a conference call with his New York office. At the club’s food bar, Munch Fit, women choose between protein smoothies with ingredients such as acai, cashew butter and whey protein. Post-valet, they are dressed in the designer wardrobe of the super-wealthy: all Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel bags — one is enveloped in a huge Balenciaga shearling throw. Such a material display of wealth seems incongruous where one’s status is more often insinuated via the tier of trainer you chose to work with and how often you like to be embalmed in a cryogenic wrap.

On a wall near the entrance sits a range of branded sportswear, T-shirts and water bottles all marked with the Equinox stamp. I wonder whether a water bottle might one day surpass the handbag as a status symbol? “The demise of retail is a permanent shift,” says Spevak. “It doesn’t mean retail’s going to go away, but it’s going to look very different. The consumer, in my opinion, will continue to buy nice things for themselves, but I think in the scheme of priorities the experience is more important than the handbag.”
In the distance, a now-familiar whirr from the mezzanine announces the start of another oxygen-rich run. Eucalyptus infuses the air. The scent of wellness is very rich indeed.

Original Article - Financial Times

November: Gym Owner Monthly

UK Fitness Members

The 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report states that membership within the UK gym sector is growing. In 2015, the total number of fitness members was 8.8 million which increased to 9.7 million in 2017. For the first time in 2016, the total number of fitness members exceeded 9 million. Will 2018 be the year that membership surpasses 10 million?

 
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Original Source: Gym Owner Monthly

IHRSA European Congress, London

David presented at the IHRSA European Congress on Wednesday. His presentation looked at the state of the European fitness markets, particularly within the UK. He also led a tour group around 3 Central London clubs; Third Space Soho, EasyGym Oxford Street and the Oasis Sports Centre, Covent Garden. 

Here are some infographics used in his presentation...

October: Gym Owner Monthly

Public Sector

The 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report reveals that 1 in every 20 people are members of a public gym. The public sector has over 2,700 gyms across the UK and Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) is the top operator. For the first time in five years, the public sector has seen a slight decline in membership numbers. Is this due to a combination of operating budgets being reduced and the impact of the private low cost market?

 
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Original Source: Gym Owner Monthly

September: Gym Owner Monthly

2018 Milestones

The 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report revealed that the UK health and fitness industry is continuing to grow. 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 2018. The number of gyms is on course to go over 7,000 for the first time, total membership to exceed 10 million and market value to reach £5 billion”.

 
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Original Source: Gym Owner Monthly