Does The Rise In Budget Gyms Signal The End For Premium Fitness Operators?


LONDON, United Kingdom — A new report examining the state of the UK fitness industry has revealed continued growth, driven primarily from low-cost operators.

Boasting more clubs, more members and a greater market value than ever before, according to the report, the industry has experienced another year of impressive growth over the twelve month period to the end of March 2017, with increases of 4.6% in the number of fitness facilities, 5.1% in the number of members and 6.3% in market value.

Commentating on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB, which produces the annual report, explained:

“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 the next 12 months. The number of gyms is on course to go over 7,000 for the first time, total membership to exceed 10 million, market value to reach £5 billion and the penetration rate should easily surpass 15%.”

For the low-cost market, which has continued to be the main driving force behind the private sector’s growth, the outlook is positive. There are currently over 500 low-cost clubs which account for 15% of the market value and 35% of membership in the private sector.

The UK’s leading operator, Pure Gym, which owns 176 gyms, boasts over 800,000 members, while The Gym Group is on course to hit its £8.8 million profit forecast by the end of 2017.

Read More: The Gym Group Gears Up For Expansion

But, as more consumers opt for the flexibility of the affordable, contract-free models, what does that mean for the premium operators?

According to Minton, there’s little to worry about. “All sectors are growing, including the top of the market, with big investment and expansions,” he told The Guardian.

High-end gym operator Equinox, which charges upwards of £200 per month for membership at its swanky London outpost, has plans to open two new London sites to meet growing demand. Third Space is due to open a 46,922 sq ft club later this year, as part of the new Islington Square development, and Virgin Active will continue to focus on its upmarket “Collection” clubs, following a £14m upgrade.

With one in seven people now signed up to a gym in the UK, penetration is at an all-time high of 14.9%, but there’s still room for growth, especially if operators can continue to evolve to meet consumer demands.


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