2023 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report

According to the 2023 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report the sector is doing extremely well and is still a wise choice for serious investor's money.

Their research shows that  although there are less gyms operating in the UK since last year, 6998 in 2023 down 0.9% down from 7063 in 2022, the number of members is up 3.9% from 9.9m in 2022 to 10.3m in 2023 and the market value has risen 11.5% from £5.1bn in 2022 to £5.4bn in 2023.

Two BFA (British Franchise Association) members, Snap Fitness 24/7 and Anytime Fitness are both encountering great success both in terms of membership and new franchisees coming on board.

Inhouse Sales Increase

Daniel Penn, head of Network Development at Anytime Fitness UK, who have 105 franchisees owning 185 gyms across the UK, attempted to shed some light on why gyms are doing so well and why they make a great investment. Daniel said: "Things are going really well and we're glad to report that the economic crisis does not appear to have affected our franchisee numbers at all.  When we compare our figures for January to September for the years 2022 and 2023, we actually had a 60% increase in people enquiring about buying a franchise this year. 2023 is also the first year we have sold more gyms to existing franchisees than to new ones, which says a lot for the profitability of our franchise model and the levels of support we offer to our franchisees."

New Premium Locations

An increase in premium high street premises, following the demise of major retailers such as Wilkos,  has also opened up new premises options for franchisees looking to find a city centre location.

High membership levels

Kirsten Horler, head of sales at Snap Fitness 24/7 said: "Choosing the right location is the key to owning a successful gym. You need to make sure your demographics are right, and that the area has the demand for a gym. You also need to look at the competition (but don't allow it to put you off) and the income brackets of your potential customers."

Snap Fitness 24/7 currently has 32 franchisees in the UK running 87 gyms, with ten more in development before the end of Q2 2024. As a company they put a lot of emphasis on the support they offer their franchisees and using the most technologically advanced equipment on the market in their gyms, providing them with a competitive edge.

Kirsten continued: "The fitness industry has had a strong recovery following the pandemic where our franchising cousins in the QSR sector (Quick Service Restaurants) have found recovery slower. Our levels of membership are now exceeding our pre-covid levels, with a 14.3% increase compared to the sector increase of 3.9%"

Who is the typical gym franchise owner?

Anytime Fitness UK said that whilst they have a broad range of franchisees, they are all savvy businesspeople. Daniel said: "The majority of our franchise owners don't come from a fitness background; they are people looking to expand their business portfolio with a good investment that can be leanly staffed, whilst also helping people improve their daily lives. Whilst it is traditionally seen as a male dominated sector, even in the past two months we've helped two husband and wife teams to open their first gyms and are seeing greater interest from women in owning a franchise with us, which is very positive news."

Is it time to invest in a gym franchise?

Despite higher upfront costs than some other franchises, gym can still offer a very good return on investment. In some gyms, but not all, members sign a 12-month contract, giving reliable monthly returns and have much lower staffing needs than many retail franchises, particularly QSR's. In some gyms instructors and personal trainers are also self-employed and pay ‘rent' to operate from the gym. A franchisee only needs to employ a couple of members of staff to keep the business running, meaning very little day to day involvement is necessary from the franchisee; useful if they have a large portfolio of investments.

With health, both mental and physical being on the top of everyone's agendas, could combining health and wealth be the way forwards for your investment portfolio in 2024?

The BFA is the largest and oldest franchise trade association in the UK with over 300 members who have signed up to their strict code of ethics.

For further information please visit: www.thebfa.org.