New horizons for gyms: an industry analysis

Amid yet another year of economic turbulence, gyms continue to defy the odds, boasting thriving memberships in both private and public sectors

New horizons for gyms: an industry analysis

The year 2022 witnessed European gym memberships reaching 63.1 million, a robust 12.3% leap from the previous year, barely a million short of the record high in 2019. Investors seeking to make their mark in the blossoming fitness realm need to grasp the dynamic consumer demands and how these trends shape gym experiences.

Andy Peat, the Global Chief Product Officer at Snap Fitness, elaborates on the evolution happening within gyms, pinpointing crucial areas that can contribute to building a thriving, long-term fitness enterprise.

The fitness industry is undergoing transformation due to technological progressions expedited by the pandemic and the alteration in individuals’ fitness ambitions. By welcoming these changes and enhancing their traditional operation models, gym franchises can carve a niche for themselves. This will allow them to stay relevant, position themselves as industry pioneers and, most importantly, enhance their franchisees’ revenue generation, ensuring enduring success.

Weight training taking centre stage over aerobics

While high-intensity cardio workouts continue to be popular, gym members are increasingly focusing on building strength over weight loss to augment their overall health. Over the past few years, there has been a discernible shift in the understanding of strength training benefits, particularly among women, who have traditionally gravitated more towards aerobics. The upswing of fitness influencers and online communities endorsing women’s strength training has resulted in increased awareness. By recognising this demand, gyms can provide specialised, inclusive strength training programmes. However, combating the “gymtimidation” culture in the weights section of the gym is paramount. Gyms that foster a welcoming environment for those new to strength training are likely to succeed in member retention.

In response to the rising popularity of strength training, it is imperative for gyms to ensure adequate strength-based equipment availability. At Snap Fitness, we recommend that new gym establishments allocate about half of their space to weight training. Existing gyms looking for a revamp should consider replacing some of their traditional cardio machines with trending equipment like squat racks. This allows more members to workout simultaneously, offering cost benefits as well.

Tech-driven solutions boosting membership retention

Cardio equipment has undergone significant upgrades in recent years. Modern machines can sync with wearable tech, enabling members to monitor their indoor cardio workouts as they would an outdoor run. Moreover, they provide training programmes or even allow access to members’ streaming services, enhancing the user experience and fostering member retention.

The pandemic led to a heightened demand for digital fitness solutions. Online fitness platforms offered increased accessibility and convenience, nurturing virtual communities where individuals could share their fitness stories and find support. This shift to digital workouts allowed gym owners to innovate and diversify their online services. Snap Fitness data shows 41% of members still prefer at-home or OnDemand workouts as a supplement to their gym workouts.

During lockdowns, Snap Fitness leveraged the opportunity to improve our member app, the Snap App, with the aim of keeping members connected and motivated. Based on a few initial questions, the app provides members with custom workout programmes and instructional videos, all of which can be used at home or at the gym. It also enables users to record and track their progress, fuelling their motivation.

Fitness is progressing from exercise as merely a means to physical gains to a more holistic approach that incorporates wellbeing and feeling good. We are also focusing on educating members and promoting wellness, providing digital content that covers stretching, recovery and tips and tools for staying happy and healthy, offering members an all-encompassing wellness solution. 

A focus on building customer relationships

A dedicated app also fosters improved communication. Members can book classes, and the brand can engage members with reminders, motivational messages, progress updates and celebratory messages. Further development of the Snap App will offer personalised recommendations, tailored workout plans and nutrition advice to enhance the member experience.

Despite the digital advances, personal interactions remain integral to a gym’s success. The debate between staffed and unstaffed gyms re-emerges as we explore the future of fitness. Most people need encouragement from a fitness professional or a friendly club manager to maintain consistent gym visits. Building a fitness business that truly supports the community is key to building strong relationships.

Even through economic hurdles, the fitness industry continues to flourish. By embracing new trends and striving for innovation and diversification, fitness brands can cement their place as industry leaders. A proactive approach can help a franchise identify market changes, uncover opportunities and adjust strategies accordingly. In today’s fast-paced and competitive fitness industry, innovation in line with a strong central model is key to long-term sustainability for gyms. 

1. 2023 European Health and Fitness Market Report (EHFMR), Europe Active and Deloitte

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