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features

MARKET RESEARCH: The UK fitness sector continues to grow, but there's room for improvement

The fitness industry might be growing, but it needs to do even more to achieve future success. David Minton reports

Published in Health Club Handbook 2016 issue 1

First we shape our industry and afterwards our industry shapes us.

This aphorism is perhaps the least quoted exposition of the relationship between people and their fitness (and health). In a year when we should be celebrating our successes, I want to question, as a critical friend, why we’re not achieving more.

Size matters
First the good news. The industry has shown itself to be recession-proof and is back in positive headline growth year-on-year. This year’s State of the Fitness Industry Report (SoFI) infographics are excellent at showing trends over longer periods, something industry veterans and financiers are finding reassuring. The penetration rate across the total population has grown to 13.7 per cent as monthly direct debits hit 8.8 million, up from 13.2 per cent and 8.3 million.

I put this upfront because it recently came to my notice via social media that too many people working in the industry don’t know the size of the industry they work in. The day-to-day isolation that many people suffer while working in what should be a very social environment needs to be addressed and we’re looking to present more real-time data on our website in 2016.

Budget becomes mid-market
So back to the good news. The total number of fitness sites stands at 6,312, up from 6,112 in the previous year, and the market value has grown to £4.3bn – representing almost £1bn growth since 2007.

Across the private sector, low-cost sites have continued to drive growth: there are now 319 low-cost clubs, up from 257. Membership of these clubs has jumped to 1.3 million, with a market value of £290m. Last year, members paid on average £17.99; this year it has increased to £18.23, an indication that more low-cost operators are bordering on the £20 a month definition.

If we keep this definition, then some low-cost brands are either finding the model isn’t working on all sites, or else they’re finding the strength of the market means they no longer need to be constrained by price. Because some brands are moving not only into the £20-plus but £30-plus brackets, particularly in London. So low-cost brands are moving into the very mid-market they were once attacking.

Public show of strength
The public sector, meanwhile, is playing a far more long-term game, gaining strength and embedding itself into the local community. Public sites have a wider range of facilities and maintain over 3.3 million members paying an average fee of £30, unchanged since last year.

Back in 2011, the public sector opened 81 all-new gyms, but although refurbs have grown, new openings have dropped year-on-year with 2015 bringing just 46. However, these new sites have 58 stations on average and are charging £31.25 – both figures higher than the all-public site average.

This average is being pushed up by the work of the larger public site operators. At the time our latest report was published, GLL and its Better brand was the largest fitness brand in the country with 126 sites, SLM’s Everyone Active had 79, and Places for People Leisure had 78 sites. GLL managed 38 more gyms than it did 12 months previously and was also the largest swim and diving school operator.

Instagram what?
Our personal preferences can become personal insight based on information in the public domain – yet few public or private brands are taking advantage to engage in meaningful conversations, present real-time information and convert interest into commerce or visits.

For the first time in our SoFI report, we’ve included a Fitness Social Media Index looking at brands on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The results don’t make for good reading: four of the top 10 private brands and nine of the top 10 public brands don’t use Instagram. Compare this to the active wear brands that have taken fitness beyond the gym to become a lifestyle.

Nike, Adidas, Vans, Converse, Puma, Under Armour and New Balance have all seen 144–252 per cent growth in Instagram followers, unprecedented in other social media forms. Are fitness brands neglecting a superior indexing platform?

Could the lack of social media strategies, along with a lack of innovation and differentiation, be the downfall of the industry in 2016? Weight Watchers is a good example of how quickly new technology can destroy the value of a business. In 2015, its stock dropped 92 per cent from its all-time high, membership is down 38 per cent, and the number of meetings has fallen by 20 per cent. Dieting tools have gone hi-tech and the Weight Watchers weekly meetings and weigh-ins have been replaced by on-demand conversation and support.

Husband and wife bloggers Daniel and Kelli on Fitness Blender have over 18 million followers, and like Wikipedia rely on donations. In the UK, Body.Network – promoted by The Times and fronted by PT Matt Roberts – provides an on-demand library of videos with your favourite trainer for £15 a month. Around 20 new aggregators – hi-tech start-ups from UK, India, Israel and the US – are working around the lack of APIs to go direct to the consumer. These aggregators will have a conversation with the consumer, will provide a personal service and will create an experience for them. Does the fitness industry do all three and do it well?

Some new technology attracts criticism for undercutting the industry, but like Uber and Airbnb, the power and choice lies with the consumer. Will aggregators, bloggers, unboxing celebrities, on-demand channels, trackers, wearables and an app for everything win over the consumer and impact traditional platforms and websites? It’s only a matter of time, so embrace new technology and help shape our industry in 2016.

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
Gallery
More features
Editor's letter

Into the fitaverse

Fitness is already among the top three markets in the metaverse, with new technology and partnerships driving real growth and consumer engagement that looks likely to spill over into health clubs, gyms and studios
Fit Tech people

Ali Jawad

Paralympic powerlifter and founder, Accessercise
Users can easily identify which facilities in the UK are accessible to the disabled community
Fit Tech people

Hannes Sjöblad

MD, DSruptive
We want to give our users an implantable tool that allows them to collect their health data at any time and in any setting
Fit Tech people

Jamie Buck

Co-founder, Active in Time
We created a solution called AiT Voice, which turns digital data into a spoken audio timetable that connects to phone systems
Profile

Fahad Alhagbani: reinventing fitness

The team is young and ambitious, and the awareness of technology is very high. We share trends and out-of-the-box ideas almost every day
Opinion

Building on the blockchain

For small sports teams looking to compete with giants, blockchain can be a secret weapon explains Lars Rensing, CEO of Protokol
Innovation

Bold move

Our results showed a greater than 60 per cent reduction in falls for individuals who actively participated in Bold’s programme
App analysis

Check your form

Sency’s motion analysis technology is allowing users to check their technique as they exercise. Co-founder and CEO Gal Rotman explains how
Profile

New reality

Sam Cole, CEO of FitXR, talks to Fit Tech about taking digital workouts to the next level, with an immersive, virtual reality fitness club
Profile

Sohail Rashid

The app is free and it’s $40 to participate in one of our virtual events
Ageing

Reverse Ageing

Many apps help people track their health, but Humanity founders Peter Ward and Michael Geer have put the focus on ageing, to help users to see the direct repercussions of their habits. They talk to Steph Eaves
App analysis

Going hybrid

Workout Anytime created its app in partnership with Virtuagym. Workout Anytime’s Greg Maurer and Virtuagym’s Hugo Braam explain the process behind its creation
Research

Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact
Editor's letter

Two-way coaching

Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
Fit Tech People

Laurent Petit

Co-founder, Active Giving
The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
Fit Tech People

Adam Zeitsiff

CEO, Intelivideo
We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
Fit Tech People

Anantharaman Pattabiraman

CEO and co-founder, Auro
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
Fit Tech People

Mike Hansen

Managing partner, Endorphinz
We noticed a big gap in the market – customers needed better insights but also recommendations on what to do, whether that be customer acquisition, content creation, marketing and more
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features

MARKET RESEARCH: The UK fitness sector continues to grow, but there's room for improvement

The fitness industry might be growing, but it needs to do even more to achieve future success. David Minton reports

Published in Health Club Handbook 2016 issue 1

First we shape our industry and afterwards our industry shapes us.

This aphorism is perhaps the least quoted exposition of the relationship between people and their fitness (and health). In a year when we should be celebrating our successes, I want to question, as a critical friend, why we’re not achieving more.

Size matters
First the good news. The industry has shown itself to be recession-proof and is back in positive headline growth year-on-year. This year’s State of the Fitness Industry Report (SoFI) infographics are excellent at showing trends over longer periods, something industry veterans and financiers are finding reassuring. The penetration rate across the total population has grown to 13.7 per cent as monthly direct debits hit 8.8 million, up from 13.2 per cent and 8.3 million.

I put this upfront because it recently came to my notice via social media that too many people working in the industry don’t know the size of the industry they work in. The day-to-day isolation that many people suffer while working in what should be a very social environment needs to be addressed and we’re looking to present more real-time data on our website in 2016.

Budget becomes mid-market
So back to the good news. The total number of fitness sites stands at 6,312, up from 6,112 in the previous year, and the market value has grown to £4.3bn – representing almost £1bn growth since 2007.

Across the private sector, low-cost sites have continued to drive growth: there are now 319 low-cost clubs, up from 257. Membership of these clubs has jumped to 1.3 million, with a market value of £290m. Last year, members paid on average £17.99; this year it has increased to £18.23, an indication that more low-cost operators are bordering on the £20 a month definition.

If we keep this definition, then some low-cost brands are either finding the model isn’t working on all sites, or else they’re finding the strength of the market means they no longer need to be constrained by price. Because some brands are moving not only into the £20-plus but £30-plus brackets, particularly in London. So low-cost brands are moving into the very mid-market they were once attacking.

Public show of strength
The public sector, meanwhile, is playing a far more long-term game, gaining strength and embedding itself into the local community. Public sites have a wider range of facilities and maintain over 3.3 million members paying an average fee of £30, unchanged since last year.

Back in 2011, the public sector opened 81 all-new gyms, but although refurbs have grown, new openings have dropped year-on-year with 2015 bringing just 46. However, these new sites have 58 stations on average and are charging £31.25 – both figures higher than the all-public site average.

This average is being pushed up by the work of the larger public site operators. At the time our latest report was published, GLL and its Better brand was the largest fitness brand in the country with 126 sites, SLM’s Everyone Active had 79, and Places for People Leisure had 78 sites. GLL managed 38 more gyms than it did 12 months previously and was also the largest swim and diving school operator.

Instagram what?
Our personal preferences can become personal insight based on information in the public domain – yet few public or private brands are taking advantage to engage in meaningful conversations, present real-time information and convert interest into commerce or visits.

For the first time in our SoFI report, we’ve included a Fitness Social Media Index looking at brands on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The results don’t make for good reading: four of the top 10 private brands and nine of the top 10 public brands don’t use Instagram. Compare this to the active wear brands that have taken fitness beyond the gym to become a lifestyle.

Nike, Adidas, Vans, Converse, Puma, Under Armour and New Balance have all seen 144–252 per cent growth in Instagram followers, unprecedented in other social media forms. Are fitness brands neglecting a superior indexing platform?

Could the lack of social media strategies, along with a lack of innovation and differentiation, be the downfall of the industry in 2016? Weight Watchers is a good example of how quickly new technology can destroy the value of a business. In 2015, its stock dropped 92 per cent from its all-time high, membership is down 38 per cent, and the number of meetings has fallen by 20 per cent. Dieting tools have gone hi-tech and the Weight Watchers weekly meetings and weigh-ins have been replaced by on-demand conversation and support.

Husband and wife bloggers Daniel and Kelli on Fitness Blender have over 18 million followers, and like Wikipedia rely on donations. In the UK, Body.Network – promoted by The Times and fronted by PT Matt Roberts – provides an on-demand library of videos with your favourite trainer for £15 a month. Around 20 new aggregators – hi-tech start-ups from UK, India, Israel and the US – are working around the lack of APIs to go direct to the consumer. These aggregators will have a conversation with the consumer, will provide a personal service and will create an experience for them. Does the fitness industry do all three and do it well?

Some new technology attracts criticism for undercutting the industry, but like Uber and Airbnb, the power and choice lies with the consumer. Will aggregators, bloggers, unboxing celebrities, on-demand channels, trackers, wearables and an app for everything win over the consumer and impact traditional platforms and websites? It’s only a matter of time, so embrace new technology and help shape our industry in 2016.

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
Gallery
More features
Editor's letter

Into the fitaverse

Fitness is already among the top three markets in the metaverse, with new technology and partnerships driving real growth and consumer engagement that looks likely to spill over into health clubs, gyms and studios
Fit Tech people

Ali Jawad

Paralympic powerlifter and founder, Accessercise
Users can easily identify which facilities in the UK are accessible to the disabled community
Fit Tech people

Hannes Sjöblad

MD, DSruptive
We want to give our users an implantable tool that allows them to collect their health data at any time and in any setting
Fit Tech people

Jamie Buck

Co-founder, Active in Time
We created a solution called AiT Voice, which turns digital data into a spoken audio timetable that connects to phone systems
Profile

Fahad Alhagbani: reinventing fitness

The team is young and ambitious, and the awareness of technology is very high. We share trends and out-of-the-box ideas almost every day
Opinion

Building on the blockchain

For small sports teams looking to compete with giants, blockchain can be a secret weapon explains Lars Rensing, CEO of Protokol
Innovation

Bold move

Our results showed a greater than 60 per cent reduction in falls for individuals who actively participated in Bold’s programme
App analysis

Check your form

Sency’s motion analysis technology is allowing users to check their technique as they exercise. Co-founder and CEO Gal Rotman explains how
Profile

New reality

Sam Cole, CEO of FitXR, talks to Fit Tech about taking digital workouts to the next level, with an immersive, virtual reality fitness club
Profile

Sohail Rashid

The app is free and it’s $40 to participate in one of our virtual events
Ageing

Reverse Ageing

Many apps help people track their health, but Humanity founders Peter Ward and Michael Geer have put the focus on ageing, to help users to see the direct repercussions of their habits. They talk to Steph Eaves
App analysis

Going hybrid

Workout Anytime created its app in partnership with Virtuagym. Workout Anytime’s Greg Maurer and Virtuagym’s Hugo Braam explain the process behind its creation
Research

Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact
Editor's letter

Two-way coaching

Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
Fit Tech People

Laurent Petit

Co-founder, Active Giving
The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
Fit Tech People

Adam Zeitsiff

CEO, Intelivideo
We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
Fit Tech People

Anantharaman Pattabiraman

CEO and co-founder, Auro
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
Fit Tech People

Mike Hansen

Managing partner, Endorphinz
We noticed a big gap in the market – customers needed better insights but also recommendations on what to do, whether that be customer acquisition, content creation, marketing and more
More features