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market report


Defying the slowdown T


he health and fitness market in the UK is coming out of a four-year spell of decline (2006–2009). During this time,


the market fell in real terms by 13 per cent. The decline was not ignited by the economic recession but by the housing bubble and the squeeze higher house prices imposed on family budgets. According to the Sport Market


Forecasts (2010–2014) report – produced by the Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffi eld Hallam University – in 2009 the size of the UK health and fi tness market was £1.96bn, representing a decline of 3 per cent compared to 2008 in real terms (2006 prices). At the same time, prices increased by a modest 2 per cent. Membership of health and fi tness


clubs declined marginally in 2009, mainly because of a full year of declining economic activity and increased unemployment – membership of private


Offering more targeted services, such as catering for older people, will help drive future growth


Green shoots are emerging for the UK health and fitness industry, driven by the budget sector and community- based programmes. Themis Kokolokakis reports


health clubs is now 4.2 million. Meanwhile Sport England’s Active Places reveals that the positive trend of club numbers slumped only in 2009 to recover in 2010. Specifi cally, the number of health and fi tness suites increased marginally from 6,649 in 2009 to 6,693 in 2010. However, the opportunities for


sport conveyed by the forthcoming London Olympic Games and Glasgow Commonwealth Games, coupled with more wide-reaching policies at health and fi tness centres – catering for the older population, 24-hour service and so on – are predicted to reverse the recent decline. Further advances into targeted services may also be developed to take advantage of the full spectrum of health and fi tness services that are already emerging in clubs in the UK, such as personal health monitoring, programmes for obesity, dietary advice and psychological support.


impact of government policy According to government estimates, the recently announced economic policy will cut public sector employment by 500,000 jobs over four years; together with the private sector, almost one million people will become unemployed. However, although this will slow


down the economic growth predicted for 2010 and 2011, it will not reverse it; another recession, although threatened, remains unlikely. In 2011, the economy (GDP) is forecast to grow in real terms by 1.9 per cent, following an expected


0.7 per cent growth in 2010. This real growth is already allowing the fi tness market to expand: according to The Leisure Database Company, a total of 122 new private and public fi tness centres opened during the year 2009–10.


low-cost health clubs One very visible aspect of the industry’s response to the recession and economic squeeze was the emergence of the budget health clubs. The development of a number of budget concepts – generally providing dry health clubs with a 24-hour trading profile – is taking the sector into a new era of operation. Memberships at these new clubs range from £10–£20 a month, fitting in well with consumers’ wish to cut down on their spending. And these chains are growing fast:


Pure Gym has announced plans for 25 clubs by the end of 2011, with up to 45 over the next three years, while The Gym Group aims to open 15 to 20 new sites in 2011. Meanwhile, US-based 24-hour chain Anytime Fitness – while focusing on convenience rather than price as its USP – has announced plans for 50 sites in the UK and Ireland by 2012. In spite of high rental and property costs, London and the south-east of England have a signifi cant presence in a number of the budget operators’ plans.


creating communities Reports have suggested that, in the grip of worsening economic climates in which gym fees are often seen as a


Consumer spending on health & fitness YEAR


Value: £ m.


2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 1923 1984 2018 1992 1933 1906 1958 2059 2181 2316 2472


(Curr. prices) % ch 4.6 3.1 1.7 -1.3 -3.0 -1.4 2.8 5.2 5.9 6.2 6.7 Prices: Index


98 98 100 102 106 108 109 111 114 116 118


(2006=100) % ch 1.8 -0.1 2.2 2.5 3.1 1.9 1.4 2.1 2.0 1.9 1.9 Volume: £ m. 1963 2027 2018 1945 1829 1770 1794 1848 1918 1999 2093 (2006 prices) % ch 2.7 3.3 -0.4 -3.7 -5.9 -3.2 1.4 3.0 3.8 4.2 4.7


Sources: SIRC model, The Active People Survey, Family Spending, Active Places (2010) 40 Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital february 2011 © cybertrek 2011


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