The State of the UK Fitness Industry Report
In a time of disputed, faked and contested facts, there is something incredibly reassuring and enduring reading this report on the State of the Fitness Industry in the UK.
It could be the consistent methodology for the past ten years; for example, the deﬁnitions for what is a ﬁtness site, a member, the value of the industry and the granularity of openings and closures. Or it could be the conﬁdence of the total market highlights that show the industry to be in rude health. All key metrics on the infographics show gyms, members, market value and penetration rate have all increased.
The trend data shows an industry that is both maturing, innovating and providing the consumer with better experiences than ever before. Before the millennium, the ﬁtness industry suﬀered from inﬂated expectations of growth. It then hit a glass ceiling where the all-important penetration rate remained virtually static between 2007 and 2012. This was a period of impoverishment, when the industry was ﬂat, bland and lacked direction. But then it started to change and has moved to this positive state, driven by the ever-expanding low cost sector that has made the industry more transparent.
In 2017, the industry has the widest possible choice of ﬁtness options, where the challenge is to excite the consumer in a product that can change with expectation and demand. The shake out started in 2012 and the upward slope of enlightenment, on the part of both the consumers and operators, is growing year on year and the potential is enormous.
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, total membership will exceed 10 million, market value to reach £5 billion and the penetration rate should easily surpass 15%.
It may be premature to call the period between 2017 and 2020 “the golden age of ﬁtness” but the growth will only be limited to the imagination of those pushing the boundaries. Comfort can be taken in these oﬃcial annual audit ﬁgures where the total number of sites, members, market value and penetration rate have all increased to new highs. At the same time, opportunities to experience ﬁtness without any boundaries, (for example, using apps, inﬂuencers, trackers, aggregators and boutique oﬀerings) have all expanded, helping to push the market in a way the consumer can control.
However, whilst the private sector has opened more clubs than those that have closed year on year since 2012, the public sector saw more closures than openings for the second year in a row. For the ﬁrst time in ﬁve years, the public sector also saw a slight decline in membership numbers. Is this a combination of the Local Authorities’ ﬁnancial straight jacket and the impact of the private low cost market? With ‘leisure’ being non-statutory, contractors and trusts are seeing operating budgets reduced and zero-based budgeting becoming more common along with paying to operate sites. The dichotomy puts more pressure on ﬁtness budgets which have traditionally been the cash generator. Obviously, the devil is in the detail and the detail is exactly what is in this annual report, http://www.leisuredb.com/publications/ published May 2017.
- David Minton
Director, The Leisure Database Company
Correspondent for SSF in London.