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INDUSTRY INSIGHTS 2014 Predictions What does the year ahead hold in store for the health and fitness sector? Arron Williams


EMEA special projects, Life Fitness


T


he outdoor workout will continue to thrive in its many forms, from


Tough Mudder to Warrior Dash, Spartan Race to Zombie Run, street circuits to bootcamps to tai chi in the park. More people will make their local playground, park, forest or beach their own gym. Women will continue to lead a heavy metal revolution on the gym fl oor, defying


Matthew Goodman


Business journalist, The Sunday Times, UK


T


he past 12 months have seen higher volumes of merger and acquisition


activity in the fi tness sector than in recent years. The two main low-cost operators gained new investors, while at the other end of the price spectrum, DLL was sold in one of the bigger buyouts of the year. This surge in activity bodes well for


further deals in 2014: City dealmakers and private equity (PE) investors are certainly making more positive noises about the sector. The upturn in the economy


36 Health Club Handbook 2014


any notions that they don’t like training with free weights. Strong is becoming sexy, and increasingly women will value being strong and healthy rather than fi tting into that size 6 dress. More people will wake up to the horror


of ‘sitting disease’ and realise just how sedentary they really are, even if they’re getting their regular daily dose of exercise. Light intensity physical activity will start to exert a much bigger infl uence on how the everyday workplace and built environment is designed for movement and wellbeing. 2014 will see the rise of the warehouse gym – friendly, no-frills gyms or ‘boxes’


should make consumer-facing companies of all kinds more attractive investment propositions, and the rationale for further fi tness sector consolidation has not faded. Where might the deals happen?


That’s harder to say. Virgin Active is in expansion mode and could look to acquire, particularly overseas. It’s understood to have taken a close look at DLL and has previously been eyeing up opportunities in North America, although that remains a tough market for an outsider to crack. Elsewhere, it may be too soon for


Fitness First to think about picking off any of its rivals. The turnaround under Andrew Cosslett is making good progress, but organic growth is likely to remain the priority. More plausible are further


loaded with a positive mental attitude and packed full of conditioning tools and functional training rigs to improve users’ athletic and personal performance. The ability of these gyms to clearly differentiate themselves by offering a wide range of conditioning and training experiences that you simply can’t fi nd in the traditional club will lie at the heart of their success. The Quantifi ed Self movement will


continue apace, with wearable technology and fi tness apps coming on-stream that offer new opportunities to enhance and enjoy life and the exercise experience more fully, both in and out of the gym.


“Last year, cycling


microgym Boom Cycle raised funds; I would


expect similar deals to boost other operators”


investments by PE investors in some smaller chains – particularly those with niche offerings. Last year, cycling microgym Boom Cycle raised funds; I would expect similar deals to boost other operators this year.


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