- New ‘Comeback Report’ finds 69% of US ClassPass members would prefer returning to classes that require a vaccine and 18% plan to only return to studios with vaccination requirements
- 9 of the 10 most-booked experiences between April and June 2021 were in-person classes, with strength training, yoga and indoor cycling topping the list
- Among users who have returned to class, average usage is 10% higher than it was before the pandemic
- In the US, studios such as Rumble and [solidcore] are starting to offer vaccination-required classes, which require proof of vaccination at the door
- As of May 2021, 87% of surveyed US ClassPass members reported they were fully vaccinated from COVID-19.
NEW YORK CITY, United States — A new survey from global fitness and wellness booking platform ClassPass has highlighted the vital role vaccines will play as the industry looks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than two thirds (69%) of US members said they would prefer returning to classes that require a vaccine, and almost one in five (18%) plan to only return to studios with vaccine requirements.
As of May 2021, 87% of surveyed US ClassPass members reported that they were fully vaccinated from COVID-19, markedly higher than the nation’s average. At the time of writing, 47% of the US and 49% of the UK population is fully vaccinated.
However, the majority of the sector canvassed in the US and UK are still unsure of the role vaccines will play in their recovery, with lockdown restrictions still hampering operations.
The company’s insights were compiled from more than 40,000 boutique studios, gyms, spas and wellness partners and come as ClassPass usage increased by more than 100% in the US and tripled in the UK between May 1 to June 10, 2021.
Demand for IRL experiences and outdoor classes
ClassPass’ special Comeback Report also found that “in real life” experiences will become increasingly popular through the second half of 2021, while outdoor classes have continued to soar in popularity.
The outdoor trend first started as a way for studios, such as Equinox, SoulCycle and Pure Barre, to offer classes while their indoor spaces were closed.
Since May 2020, there has been a 917% increase in the number of studios offering outdoor classes and May 2021 saw the most outdoor reservations in a single month ever on ClassPass.
The ClassPass survey also found that nine of the current top 10 experiences being booked on ClassPass are for in-person classes and appointments. Among those who have returned to class, average usage is 10% higher than it was before the pandemic.
Strength training was identified as the most-booked class type as people have rushed back to studios and classes with gym gear they may not have had access to at home, as well as on-hand instructors.
Yoga and indoor cycling came second and third, while digital classes have dropped significantly in the rankings. Only Livestream Yoga, in ninth, has remained in the top 10 most-booked classes between April to June 2021.
“The current situation is not sustainable”
While consumer desire for vaccine-required classes will be informative for many boutique studio operators, most are still unsure of how life will return to pre-pandemic conditions.
“We simply don’t know what the future will hold for vaccinations and regulations in the UK,” Hilary Rowland, Co-Founder of United Fitness Brands [UFB] told Welltodo.
In April, UFB added Barrecore’s 12 studios to its portfolio of over 20 sites, including founding studios Boom Cycle and KOBOX, with all three brands set for immediate expansion upon COVID-19 restrictions lifting.
Despite plans for aggressive expansion, with “a couple additional verticals to complete our offering” being scoped out in London and across the UK, Rowland admits the sector needs clarity. “The current situation is not sustainable. Many of our locations rely on people being back in offices,” she said.
“We are seeing great occupancy across the board with many studios running up to 80% or even above in some cases,” she continued. “All of our locations in residential areas are incredibly busy showing that people are ready to come back, but that they are still working from home quite a bit.”
Whether vaccinations become a requirement or not, Rowland is confident the public will not be deterred from returning to in-person fitness classes. “People miss the experience that classes like KOBOX and Boom Cycle create,” she said.
“They miss the community feel and connecting in real life with like-minded individuals who come to our studios to be empowered and have fun. Nothing will ever take the place of the energy of a real, in-person fitness class.”
Xponential Fitness Ltd. Files For IPO
Xponential Fitness, UFB’s Stateside equivalent, was contacted to comment on the ClassPass findings but unable to reply as — understandably — it was filing for a US initial public offering last week.
The franchise owner of boutique fitness brands including Club Pilates and CycleBar had initially delayed its listing plans when the coronavirus pandemic hit last year. In its Friday filing, it reported a loss of $4.8 million on revenue of $29 million for the three months to March 31. This compares with a loss of $1.9 million on $32 million in the first quarter of 2020.
However, a year of solid studio growth has put an IPO back on the table for the California-based company and suggests the boutique fitness sector is rebounding strongly in the US. As of March 31, Xponential Fitness Ltd. had 1,765 open studios, 294 more than at the end of 2019. It sold 362 franchise licenses, reaching 3,371 in all, during the same period.
In April, Bloomberg News reported that Xponential was planning to seek to be valued at about $1.3 billion.
Putting that in perspective, plant-based meat brand Impossible Foods was rumoured to go public at a $10 billion valuation in April. Digital health startup Hims & Hers used a SPAC to go public at the start of the year for a $1.6 billion valuation. And digital fitness giants Peloton made their market debut at $7.2 billion in September of 2019, pre-pandemic.
As ClassPass’ report suggests, the short term fate of Xponential Fitness’ listing – and that of the wider fitness industry – will likely hinge on the speed, success and of the vaccine rollout.