Workouts at London's boutique studios

Following the release of LeisureDB’s London Boutique Studio Report the team have visited a number of boutique fitness studios across the city.

In the past few months we’ve tried classes at Ministry of Sound Fitness, Equilibrium, The Yard at Third Space, Ten Health & Fitness, 1Rebel, Digme and many more. Check out @thefitness4 on Instagram for more of the team’s fitness adventures.

Equilibrium near King’s Cross opened mid February 2019 and it’s one of the team’s new favourite studios. The elegantly designed workout space and incredible training staff has drawn the team back time and time again. The classes are challenging and incorporate three pieces of equipment: TRX, TRX RIP TRAINER and Technogym SKILLMILL.

David Minton Podcast with Bryan O'Rourke

While in Bologna, Italy for the ForumClub event David spoke about ‘Fitness & Technology’ with Bryan O’Rourke. Please see link below:

Key Information:

David’s Powerful Quote:

“I don't think we're taking a wider view of education in the industry. There are too many suppliers who don't follow through with education, and it's a real shame.”

Highlighed key topics discussed:

Bryan and David, together in Bologna, Italy, for the 20th anniversary of ForumClub, comment upon that country's place in the fitness landscape, where work-life balance is key, and where big companies like TechnoGym call home.

David draws upon his decades years of experience to share three things the industry gets wrong about data today, as well as his beliefs regarding education and the lack of free educational services in the fitness industry when compared to the tech industry.

Bryan asks David to explain the importance of storytelling in the fitness industry, and why some businesses are making a mistake by not better branding their experience and what makes them unique.

David talks about the 2018 London Boutique Studio Report that LeisureDB has just released, for what many consider to be the most competitive fitness marketplace in the world.

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Boutique fitness attracts a wide range of investment

London’s growth in both supply and demand for boutique studios has become the fastest growing fitness segment. By the end of October 2018, London had 278 boutique sites with over 400 studios offering 15,806 classes each week. The popularity of this segment, which sets itself apart by offering captivating experiences providing a memorable visit, is detailed in the new benchmark report 2018 London Boutique Studio Report.

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The boutique studio trend should come as no surprise as Barry’s, for example, started in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, 20 years ago and other concepts like ‘spinning’ are even more mature. Boutique concepts are not new; London is awash with cool, hip hotels, bars selling craft beer from microbreweries, wine bars specialising in boutique wineries and there’s no end to the number of baristas adding value to the simple coffee bean. People are prepared to pay a premium to have a story to tell; an experience, to understand the provenance and to be part of a tribe.

Boutique studios are cashing in on this movement and the 2018 Report explores the growth since 2011. Details include studio type, number, classes, location, capacity, extra facilities and live links to the social media channels. A breakdown and history of the main boutique styles (HIIT, Mind & Body and CrossFit) are provided along with charts showing the number of weekly classes across all sites.

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This is the most fitness-tainment moment London has known in our time and it’s a safe bet to say the research team at LeisureDB are not only the fittest but most well informed on what makes a great experience, after taking classes at every main brand.

This movement couldn’t happen without investment, imagination and some clever mash-up of athletic-wear, fashion, music, some inventive collaborations and design. In London, the investment and co-branding has been on a more British scale with hype and queues to get into classes more muted than NYC and LA. Crowd Funding has helped brands like 1Rebel, BLOK, Core Collective and Boom Cycle, contributing around £10 million towards growth. Investment firms like Codex Capital (1Rebel), Piper (Frame), Encore Capital (Another Space) and Pembroke VCT (Boom Cycle) are some of the early investors with around £20 million committed so far. Private investment from former and current professional boxers and fighters, local and international franchise operations plus industry specialists are fuelling the growth.

After the investment comes the imagination, design and experience which people are prepared to pay for. BXR, a fitness site with boutique studios launched in January 2017, is a passion project for the undefeated boxer Anthony Joshua. It has been experimenting with ‘drop-culture’ to create demand and urgency, a strategy pioneered by streetwear brands like Supreme and Palace. So, drop in to see the next Joshua fight (it was a great evening), to the Selfridges Residency (a pop-up first) and Victoria Secret (shhh, it’s a secret).

BXR, like top end fashion brands, have developed a diffusion line with three studios on a pay-as-you-go basis called Sweat. BLOK is where fitness meets art in seductive spaces. Celebrity endorsements and photoshoots provide global exposure for their cool brand and studios. The legendary Ministry of Sound nightclub and multimedia entertainment business opened London’s first studio fitness nightclub. Located in the club’s previous back-of-house vault, it takes the club-style sound system plus lighting and pairs it with HIIT classes. Digme (named after a beach in Hawaii) opened in London thanks to Geoff and Caoimhe. Number one in the classes league table is Frame, run by Pip and Joan, who are also busy designing their own workout gear, a concept called ‘MumHood’ and an Academy (no wonder they need the occasional Negroni)! Rize, formerly Movers and Shapers, is growing out in the community with three sites. Ten, founded by Joanne, has grown to eight sites with a more intense version of Dynamic Pilates. F45, where no workout is ever the same, has over 20 studios in London with its many devotees. Another Space has three types of classes and doing a combination of all three is the norm now. There are thirty main brands, with two or more sites, featured in the report with unique benchmarking facts and figures on each.

The scale of investment and collaborations in the USA speaks volumes for the ‘can-do’ positive attitude that flows from the west coast. Venture capitalists, private equity firms, family offices, real estate firms, hotels have all developed an appetite for boutiques and seen how new concepts can add value to their existing investments.

Luxury brands are linking with street power brands and collaborations are going mainstream. Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), who have over 60 prestigious brands, partnered with Catterton, a private equity firm, in 2016. The re-branded L Catterton is one of the largest, diversified consumer-dedicated private equity firms in the world. Three of L Catterton portfolio of boutique companies are named in The World’s Most Innovative Companies 2018 by Fast Company.

Included in the Wellness listing at number 1 is Peloton, for bringing the boutique fitness experience into the home. Number 7 is Pure Barre for stretching the appeal of ballet-based exercise and number 8, Equinox, for breaking further into the luxury wellness industry with its new hotel concept. The Equinox owned SoulCycle is at number 6. L Catterton also have investments in CorePower Yoga, the UK athleisure brand Sweaty Betty and for the cyclists reading this, Pinarello.

TPG Growth is another red-hot investor in this sector and Mark Grabowski joined in 2016 after leaving L Catterton, where he worked on the Peloton and Pure Barre deals. TPG Capital, the main investment firm, owns a stake in USA fitness gym operator Life Time Fitness which it took private in 2015 with Leonard Green & Partners from LA, in a $2.8bn leveraged buyout. Leonard Green & Partners purchased the UK’s largest low-cost brand Pure Gym, in 2017. Grabowski has now spun out of TPG, raised his own fund and partnered with Anthony Geisler to buy Xponential with the idea of curating various boutique fitness concepts under one umbrella. The holding company currently has Club Pilates, Stretch Lab, Cyclebar, Row House, AKT, Yoga Six and in 2017 had almost $150 million in revenue. Cyclebar will be the first brand to open next to the new Embassy of the United States in London’s wider Battersea development this year, while master franchises, will be appointed to expand all brands throughout Europe.

Hotels and real estate companies have been expanding the boutique concept to include fitness. Hilton Hotels, a legendary name in the hospitality industry, is listed number 3 in the Fast Company Wellness listing for building hotel rooms that double as gyms with its Five Feet to Fitness initiative. Hilton have also installed 6 Les Mills ‘The Trip’ virtual studios in the UK. Hyatt Hotels acquired Exhale, a 15-year-old boutique spa concept with 25 locations, in 2017 to add to the Miraval, a provider of wellness experiences, to deliver wellness to guests. Marriott International own the five W Hotels in NYC and have partnered with Swerve Fitness locations at Midtown and Flatiron. Guests get a Swerve swag bag and unlimited rides during the stay. At Swerve you ride in ‘teams’ (Red, Green and Blue) for 45 minutes of rhythm rides bringing indoor cycling and team competition.

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Another NYC hotelier, Michael Achenbaum, who’s behind the sleek Gansevoort Hotels, opened the Curtain Hotel and members club in Shoreditch, London, with local developer SUSD, May 2017. In the members club soundproofed live music studio, Boom Cycle (featured in the Report) pop-up opened for members. The pop-up has moved on but as Achenbaum says, “boutique, hotels and fitness, are redefining creativity”.

The Related Companies first Equinox-branded hotel with 60,000 square foot gym and spa will join Related Companies boutique brands like SoulCycle and Rumble in NYC Manhattan’s West Side in a new $25 billion Hudson Yards development, a new model for urban renewal. An interesting aside, Thomas Heatherwick, one of London’s most original thinkers, responsible for the new Routemaster buses in London, the Rolling Bridge at Paddington Basin and the London Olympics 2012 Cauldron, is creating his monumental $200 million artwork ‘Vessel,’ a honeycomb like staircase, to be the focal point for Hudson Yards.

This first comprehensive report on the growth of Boutique Studios in London provides unique insight, with benchmarking, into the fastest growing fitness segment. Copies of the report can be purchased and downloaded here.

Article written by:

David Minton, Founder & Director of Leisure DB

January 2019


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The 2018 London Boutique Studio Report shows that the London boutique studio market is rapidly expanding. There are 278 boutique studios across the city: 114 HIIT studios, 111 Mind & Body studios and 53 CrossFit studios. They offer over 15k classes each week and at any one time, 9.6k people could be taking part in a class.

The 2018 report highlights that the number of boutique studios has grown by 281% over the last 5 years. 2018 has already seen over 60 new boutique studios open in London (up until 31st October), the highest number yet. This compares to a total of 46 in 2017.

F45 Training, with 21 London studios, is the leading boutique operator (by number of sites). They are the first brand to exceed 20 London locations, after adding 16 new studios in 2018. 

Commenting on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “The boutique studio trend should come as no surprise; fitness is simply playing catch up to other industries. Retail, hotels, food and drink have been establishing small, hip boutique options for some time. People are prepared to pay a premium to have more of an experience and be part of a tribe. Boutique fitness studios are a part of this movement and are cashing in, particularly in London”.

Summary of Key Facts

  • The number of boutique studios in London is 278.

  • There are 114 HIIT studios, 111 Mind & Body studios and 53 CrossFit studios.

  • 61 studios opened between the period 1st January to 31st October 2018, up from 46 in 2017.

  • There are 15,806 boutique classes on offer across London each week.

  • The total boutique studio capacity across the 278 sites in London is 9,629 people (at any one time).



The London Boutique Studio Report is compiled from the most comprehensive review of the London boutique industry, involving individual contact with all sites and the brands featured. The audit was conducted as of 31st October 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 London Boutique Studio Report.

Further Information:


LeisureDB (formerly The Leisure Database Company) 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 member profiling reports, new site analysis, latent demand estimates, statistics and data licenses.

Tel: 020 3735 8491

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


If you’ve ever used an aggregator service, such as Expedia or, 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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The benefits of exercising to music

By Chay Westall

Everyone loves listening to music in the gym.

I’ve even arrived at the gym, realised I'd forgotten my earphones and then gone home to get them because the idea of completing an hour workout in silence is just too stressful. 

Have you ever been on a long car journey? Maybe traveling away with a couple of friends that you haven’t seen in a while, have loads to catch each other up on and suddenly you have arrived at the hotel and everyone goes “wow, we’ve arrived already!”

Well, this is due to your perception of time. When you have something to distract you like a conversation with friends, or your favourite music, you perceive time to go faster which brings me to the first benefit of exercising with music...DISTRACTION! No one would turn down the ability to make a 5km run feel like it takes half the time.

Not only does music distract you, it also motivates you to work harder. Listening to a song like Eye of the Tiger to 'get pumped', you can’t help but picture yourself as Rocky doing one-arm press ups, climbing the “Rocky Steps”, and sprinting through the streets of Philly. Let music boost your performance, listen to the words of Eminem's “Lose Yourself” and you’ll smash that 5k row.


Finally, there are the physiological changes that music has on your body:

  • Reduces stress
  • Increases heart rate
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduces feelings of fatigue

These changes all speak for themselves. So listen to music! Let it improve your mood and your won’t regret it!

Chelsea Physic Garden

Yesterday, the LeisureDB team visited the Chelsea Physic Garden, the oldest botanical garden in London, to celebrate David's birthday. 

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Chay's 13-minute circuit


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!

Calories and losing weight

By Chay Westall

How many people can say they go a whole day without thinking about calories and losing weight?

Calories are the body's energy source, it fuels you when completing your daily circuit class, and even when walking to the kitchen to make that morning cup of tea. Still we devote so much time to calorie counting…they’re not the enemy, are they?

Well! The last report published by the NHS shows that 26% of the UK’s adult population is obese, up 15% since 1993. Yet the 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report revealed there are 9.9 million fitness members, more than ever before! So why are obesity levels still rising?

The simple matter of the fact is, your body will have plateaued. It has been adapted by three main areas: diet, activity level, and resting metabolic rate, you are the final product. To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you use. Obviously, it can get extremely complicated with what your body needs including: carbohydrates, fats and a whole array of micronutrients.


Protein seems to be a macronutrient that is commonly over consumed, especially in the fitness industry. If asked, would you know how much protein you need to consume a day? A competing bodybuilder for example, may need to consume around 1.7g of protein per kg of their body weight a day; if that man weighed 80kg, he would need 136g (just under 23 large eggs or 481g of chicken breast).

However, that’s for a bodybuilder, the rest of us only need 0.8-1.2g/kg, and yet, the last national nutrition survey showed that we consume 45-55% more than recommended. With weight gain being a side effect of excess protein, over consumption certainly doesn’t help lower obesity levels.

So, what about all these different diets: low-calorie, low-Carb, vegan… Are they working? They can but only because the calorie intake is less, simple! Despite this, did you know that the weight you lose on extreme low-calorie diets tends to be muscle mass and not fat? Realistically then, you have three options:

  1. Gradually reducing your calorie intake while sticking to the same routine such as snacking on a banana rather than a Bounty.
  2. Maintaining the same diet and increasing activity levels, for example a female going for a brisk 30 minute walk a day, 5-days a week will expend an extra 550 calories.
  3. A little of both.

Everyone knows what foods and drinks are bad for them, you don’t need to look at the contents to figure it out. Make small changes to your diet and lifestyle and you’ll start to notice the difference. 

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!


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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July: Gym Owner Monthly

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.

Source: Gym Owner Monthly

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Is your fitness obsession driving you into debt?

For some people exercise is a luxury lifestyle they can’t do without — but they also can’t afford

Dynamic Pilates at Heartcore, £27

Dynamic Pilates at Heartcore, £27

If you want to work out in a walnut-floored boutique studio with an exclusive handful of classmates dripping in Lululemon finery, you must be prepared to pay for the privilege. And it seems that we are. Our fitness expenditure is spiralling, not just in terms of the amount paid for bespoke classes and personal trainers, but on the high-end clothing we wear to them, the £200 running shoes and the entry fees for ever more glamorous endurance challenges.

Where once a designer handbag was an expression of status, now it is your choice of workout and where you do it. So when Prince Harry is spotted heading to the £8,000-a-year KX Gym in Chelsea, London, those who live to work out, rather than work out to live, don’t bat an eyelid. They know how expensive a luxury gym habit can be.

Charlotte Quesnel, a 38-year-old database manager from London, says she made the switch from a regular gym — where the monthly direct debit from her account was £60 — to a boutique studio last year. “It took some serious rebudgeting as it costs me about five times more than I was previously paying, but it’s become part of my lifestyle rather than something I fit in when I have time,” she says.

Quesnel is part of a tribe that puts fitness outlay before all else. Its members prioritise the pursuit of wellness and all it promises — perfect posture, even-keeled emotions and a hoisted butt — even when it puts pressure on their bank balances. I know people who once moaned about their monthly direct debit to a gym, but who now reel off a fitness agenda so extravagant it would rival the training programme of an elite athlete. There are twice-weekly visits to a Pilates teacher, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or boxing sessions at a bespoke gym, runs (often with a trainer), yoga classes and sports massage with a physiotherapist to iron out the inevitable aching muscles.

Fine if they can afford it, but many can’t. Sue Hayward, a personal finance and consumer expert, says that overspending on fitness is common and an increasing contributor to personal debt. “A lot of people are spending too much,” she says.

Among them is Caroline (not her real name) from Guildford whose gym spending escalated to the point where her bank withdrew her debit card. “I went to a gym where I paid £12 a session for classes and was going almost every day,” she says. “As they were HIIT-style strength classes, I needed yoga to help my flexibility and that was £15 a time. Before I knew it I was racking up almost £400 a month and was way overdrawn.”

Hayward says that it’s far easier to justify spending a large chunk of your monthly salary on a barre class or bespoke boxing session than a shopping spree. A report by Virgin Active last month revealed that half of Londoners see their workout spending as an investment in their health rather than a cost. It underlines just how far some people’s mindsets — and their spending habits — have shifted. “Our perspective on exercise has changed,” Hayward says. “It’s easy to get hooked on the appeal of luxury fitness trends and to convince yourself they are worth paying for. People feel virtuous about doing anything fitness-related and convince themselves that spending huge amounts of money on it is worthwhile.”

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a non-profit research company, the worldwide wellness market is worth $372 trillion, but is expected to grow a further 17 per cent by the end of 2020. It is an industry with a growth trajectory “that appears unstoppable”, GWI’s senior researchers said, making it “one of the world’s fastest-growing, most resilient markets”. There’s certainly no sign of an imminent downturn in fortune.

David Minton, the managing director of the market-research company Leisure DB, who has been tracking UK consumer fitness habits for more than three decades, predicts that we are entering a “golden age of fitness” and that “several milestones are likely to be hit” this year, including a peak in spending.

Collectively, we spend £4.7 billion on gym memberships in the UK, a rise of 6.3 per cent since 2016. That figure is likely to exceed £5 billion this year and doesn’t include the luxury add-ons that are eating into our surplus cash.

“Without doubt, there is a sector of the population that is spending more and more on fitness,” Minton says. “A growing number of people are ditching their £40 to £60 direct debt to a gym chain and spending quadruple that amount — or more — on tailored sessions at boutique gyms.”

A decade ago it was unthinkable to have more than one gym payment a month. Yet Minton says we have reached the point where paying up to £30 for a single class is normal and some think nothing of sweating their way through double and occasionally triple workouts on the same day.

It’s not just the healthy, wealthy silver army who are paying a premium to preserve their bodies. In January the fitness brand Myprotein surveyed 2,800 UK adults aged 18 to 65 and found that the debt-ridden millennial generation spend the most on fitness, averaging £155 monthly on an array of gym sessions and kit.

Even students, long considered the group least likely to squander cash on healthy pursuits, are cutting back on alcohol and spending up to four times more on fitness than they were a decade ago, according to a recent survey conducted by the student letting app SPCE. “The number and range of people prepared to pay £20 or £30 just to get sweaty for an hour is incredible,” Minton says. “There are now around 600 boutique gyms in London alone and most are thriving. The demand and willingness to pay is there.”

Not that overspending is confined to weekly workouts — the cost of entering events also hits the bank balance. Thousands take part in events such as the Colour Run, in which you pay £28 to run 5km while being splashed with paint, while others will part with five-figure sums to participate in global tests of stamina such as the North Pole Marathon or the Antarctic Ice Marathon.

For those who want to push themselves farther, signing up for Iron Man triathlons can cost anything from £5,000 to £12,000 by the time you factor in race entry, training plans, pool subscription and the kit required for the disciplines. Meanwhile, the cost for entry to the Marathon des Sables — the notoriously gruelling stomp across the Sahara desert, billed the “toughest footrace on earth” — is £4,250 this year. That does include flights, but not the hundreds more you will need to spend on “mandatory” desert-friendly running gear to endure the six days and 156 miles in searing heat. I know people who would spend less on a car, yet have done it not once, but three or four times.

Where will it end? Minton says there will inevitably be a tipping point. “Our gym spending has consistently risen year on year,” he says. “Most people can’t sustain a thrice-weekly boutique gym habit indefinitely.” On the average budget something has to give if high levels of gym debt is to be avoided. Yet Quesnel speaks for many in saying she has no intention of cutting back. “It is super-expensive for me,” she says, “but just for the benefits and positive change to my lifestyle I think it’s worth spending that much on it.”

How fitness debt stacks up

Pair of Nike VaporMax Flynit 2 £169.95

Yoga class at Triyoga £17

Barry’s Bootcamp class £20

Psycle London spinning class £20

Weekly deep fascial release massage session at Twenty Two Training £100

Barre Class at Frame £14

AquaFit session at Bulgari Spa £125

Barrecore ballet-inspired class £28

Month’s membership of Third Space £142-£185 (plus £50 joining fee)

Month’s membership of Equinox £210 (plus £400 initiation fee)

Personal training £60-£250 an hour

GPS fitness tracker £200

Entry to London Triathlon Olympic Plus event £135.70

Wattbike smart cycle £2,250

Work out for nothing

More than 1.6 million people take part in these events held at more than 520 locations around the UK (and overseas if you fancy some Parkrun touring).

Sweaty Betty
The women’s gym clothing store offers free in-store classes from yoga to barre. You need to be quick to grab a place.

Our Parks
This initiative provides free 60-minute classes at a range of parks across Greater London. Select from circuit training, abs workout, Box Fit, bootcamp, etc.

Offset the cost of those expensive leggings by booking a free run club or yoga class.

Good Gym
Go on a “mission run” to help a community cause (eg a run to collect an elderly person’s shopping or clear litter from a park).

Tennis For Free
Free 90-minute sessions (followed by half an hour of “open” play) delivered by tennis coaches at venues around the UK.

Source: The Times

Project Fitness UK 2018


£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

  • 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.

How to fatten your profits as the world slims

Article in MoneyWeek by Alice Gråhns

Modern living has turned us into overweight, inactive couch potatoes. There’s an app for that, says Alice Gråhns – and an opportunity to profit for smart investors.

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Once upon a time, hard, regular physical exercise was part and parcel of our daily existence, rather than an optional extra we fitted in in our spare time. From ancient times until really fairly recently, our ancestors didn’t need expensive gym facilities to stay in shape. From hunter-gathers to farm labourers to industrial workers, a combination of physically demanding manual work, walking rather than driving, and a daily calorie intake restricted by necessity rather than choice, kept us active (if not always healthy). It’s little surprise that many of us struggle to keep fit in the modern era of sedentary jobs, widespread car ownership, and virtually limitless opportunities to snack.

This has created a burgeoning boom in businesses dedicated to keeping us healthy. In 2006, 13% of adults in England took part in regular fitness activities. By last year, this had risen to 16%. Today, one in every seven people in the UK is a member of a gym, and ever more are signing up. In the year to the end of March 2017, overall UK gym membership numbers grew by 5.1% (6.3% in terms of value), according to the 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report by health and fitness consultancy LeisureDB. Meanwhile, the sector has grown globally from being worth $67bn in 2009 to $83bn last year. And it’s not just about going to the gym. Every aspect of the fitness industry – from sports centres to healthy foods to tracking technology and even “activewear” – is expanding rapidly. People don’t just care about what they do with their bodies, but also about what they put in them and on them.

Indeed, says David Minton, founder of LeisureDB, the industry is entering a golden age. Individuals are increasingly aware of the need to look after themselves, helped both by public health campaigns and (in the UK) the ongoing post-2012 Olympics “halo” effect. Meanwhile, fitness facilities are ever more widespread and of higher quality, customer service is improving, and gym membership is becoming more affordable, says Steven Ward, chief executive at UK Active. While the 16- to 34-year-old demographic is the key target market (young consumers generally are), the older generation is also increasingly interested in getting into shape.

Then there’s the expanding role the government sees for the industry. We wrote about the obesity epidemic a few months ago in MoneyWeek, but increasingly there’s a new public health enemy number one – inactivity. Physical inactivity is the largest cause of premature mortality globally, according to the World Health Organisation. Nearly 13 million people in the UK are classed as physically inactive, meaning they fail to rack up at least 30 minutes of physical activity per week. The fitness industry can only benefit from government efforts to tackle that. Indeed, all of those inactive adults represent a significant growth opportunity.

Big health is big business

As demand has grown, the range of options for keeping fit has widened considerably. These days, in most British cities, you’ll see a fitness centre on every other street corner – be it a low-cost gym, a boutique gym or an expensive health club with fancier facilities. Much of the industry’s growth is arising at the budget end of the market. There are now more than 500 low-cost clubs (defined as those charging less than £20 a month), accounting for 15% of the market value and more than a third of total membership. Beyond offering keen pricing, budget chains attract customers by offering 24-hour access (so you can work out around your working day) and freedom from annual contracts.

These budget gyms often appeal to first-timers who, as they become fitter, may work their way up the market, says Minton. Boutique gyms are smaller and more exclusive than low-cost gyms, and tend to focus on one specific area of fitness. Alternatively, health clubs are larger and more anonymous, but usually have the most extensive facilities, with spas and swimming pools. But whatever the entry level, the two key staples of the fitness industry are gym sessions (people working out individually) and fitness classes (exercising as a group), says Lisa O’Keefe, director of insight at Sport England. Almost 4.5 million people do gym sessions regularly and 1.6 million people take fitness classes. Men generally tend to stick to weightlifting, while women typically favour group workouts, says O’Keefe. This is a trend that has become more apparent fairly recently, helped partly by the high profile of female athletes at the London Olympics in 2012.

The industry itself – not unlike the fashion business – is very good at creating and responding to demand, generating an ongoing stream of new classes to capture fickle consumers’ imaginations. A couple of years ago, Zumba was the “in” exercise. Today, CrossFit, yoga and innovative spinning (cycling on the spot) classes have taken over. Even nightclubs have joined in – they provide exercise classes during the day and put the gym equipment away for the night.

It’s about what you eat too

Interest in healthy eating is booming too. And you don’t have to be an ardent gym bunny to care about watching what you eat. For example, the UK market for organic food is now worth nearly £2.1bn, and is growing strongly – total sales of organic food grew by 7.1% last year, according to the Soil Association, while non-organic sales fell. A growing number of companies now provide healthy meal and nutrition plans delivered direct to your door.

However, above and beyond those who desire a more healthy diet, there’s a growing appetite for supplements and specialist foods aimed specifically at gym fanatics, bodybuilders, professional athletes and enthusiastic amateurs: everything from so-called “superfoods” packed with vitamins and antioxidants to protein shakes. It’s fair to say that the scientific benefits of many of these supplements are the subject of debate and others are simply soft drinks repackaged as “lifestyle” brands. Yet demand for these products is growing just as, if not more, rapidly than the market for organic food. The global sports nutrition market is already worth nearly $30bn and it’s expected to grow at an annual rate of around 8.1% for the next five years, to reach a value of $45.27bn by 2022.

The rise of “athleisure”

The growing cult of the body – with everyone from celebrities to fitness bloggers to “ordinary” people given to posting snapshots of their “rock-hard abs” on social media – has also fuelled a desire to look good in workout gear. Scruffy tracksuit bottoms won’t cut it in your high-end boutique gym, leading to a rapidly growing market for athletic products and apparel. Increasingly that trend is spilling out into the high street. Sportswear is not just for exercise. Indeed, many people who wouldn’t go to the gym if you paid them will nevertheless snap up expensive “athleisure” gear. According to GlobalData, growth in the sportswear sector is set to outpace the total UK clothing market this year, which itself is expected to grow by 2.1%.

Indeed, the fashion trend is so popular that many wonder how long its vertiginous rise can be sustained. However, investors can relax – even if UK consumers start to find new fashions, the global trend remains robust, driven partly by growth in China. In fact, global athletic wear sales are expected to increase by nearly 20% by 2021, to $355bn from $290bn currently, according to analysts at Morgan Stanley. This can be attributed to the increasing number of luxury fashion designers turning their eye to sportswear. Stella McCartney designed the Team GB kit for the 2012 Olympics, and since then both Chanel and Dior have released couture trainers, while Alexander Wang launched an athletics range for H&M. The activewear trend has, of course, also boosted sports brands such as Nike and Adidas.

A robotic nag

Another growing obsession – both in terms of physical health and the wider self-help movement – is the drive  for relentless self-improvement via the formation of healthy habits. This usually involves keeping some sort of record  of your activities, which in turn has increased demand for devices that can track what you do – and nag you gently (or not so gently) when you fail to achieve your daily targets.

The chances are that you already have such a device – or at the very least, your smartphone has the capability to act as a fitness tracker if you download the right app. Technology is disrupting most businesses on the planet and the fitness industry is no exception. Wearable devices – from phones to smartwatches to simple wristbands – mean that you can now easily track how far you’ve run, what speed you’ve been going at, and how many calories you’ve burned. And a few days after your run, you’ll get an electronic reminder that you found 7.30pm on Tuesday evening to be a convenient time for a workout –  don’t you think that now is the ideal time for another one?

This ability to track our progress and to adjust our exercise patterns accordingly has in turn fuelled even more demand for yet more data and analysis. As a result, the global wearables sector is expected to rocket in value from $23bn last year to $173bn in 2020, according to global analyst MarketsandMarkets. 

The disruption caused by technology in the fitness industry isn’t all about wearable technology. The software at the back-end of a fitness centre is just as important – whether it be a booking system, a management tool for members’ access to the facility, or an automated sales system. In the future, these customer-relationship management (CRM) systems will undergo major changes as artificial intelligence becomes increasingly popular, reckons Minton.

The goal of any fitness services provider is ultimately to make the process more seamless – the fewer hurdles there are between a customer joining the gym and following through on their good intentions to use it, the more profitable the gym is likely to be. Artificial intelligence will help to personalise membership for each customer – your gym’s software will learn what type of activity you like, and send personalised “push notifications”, informing you of upcoming classes you might enjoy and offering to book you in for a session. Just as wearables already know your preferences, so your local gym will too.

The five best stocks to buy now

If you want to invest in the growth of the fitness market, US-based Planet Fitness (NYSE: PLNT) is one of the largest and fastest-growing gym chains in the world, with around seven million members. The company’s quarterly revenue has climbed 12.1% year over year to $97.5m, but unfortunately, that rapid growth appears to be thoroughly priced in after the share price surged following the strong results – it now trades on a steep price/earnings (p/e) ratio of 45. An alternative UK-based option is the low-cost fitness chain The Gym Group (LSE: GYM). The company has 95 gyms in the UK and plans to open another 20. It’s growing fast too – it saw revenue rise by 18.8% to £42.8m in the six months to June 30 – but trades on a slightly less eye-watering forward p/e of below 30, which is just about reasonable (though still not cheap) given the growth rate. 

On the dieting side, there are several big US firms that produce diet plans and low-calorie foods, including Weight Watchers and Medifast. Ever so slightly cheaper than either of those – on a forward p/e of around 25 – is Nutrisystem (Nasdaq: NTRI). Brokers are targeting an average price of around $70 a share for the stock, compared with its current level of just below $50. Another option you may be considering is supplements provider Herbalife, given its p/e of 14. However, we’d be wary of this one – Herbalife is a consistent short-selling target, and while it has thwarted the shorts so far (notably hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman), we wouldn’t risk investing without doing detailed due diligence first.

A key brand to keep an eye on in the activewear sector is Adidas (Frankfurt: ADS). In North America, sales jumped 31% in the last quarter, topping $1bn in the region at a time when Adidas’s two biggest rivals, Nike and Under Armour, have struggled to keep sales up on their home turf. On a p/e of 28, it’s not cheap, but of the big brands it currently looks the best option. A less obvious bet is Lululemon Athletica (Nasdaq: LULU). The upmarket yoga and fitness gear company has struggled amid concerns over potential competition from Amazon and Nike, but continues to expand both internationally and in other areas, such as men’s clothing.

On the tech side, one option is Mindbody (Nasdaq: MB). This $1.5bn firm provides cloud-based business-management software and payment systems for “the wellness services industry”, and offers an app designed to help users find and book exercise classes. It doesn’t yet make a profit, so it’s risky, but revenues are growing fast.