What might the coming year bring for the fitness and physical activity sector?
Independent clubs comprise half of the UK private sector but I believe their long-term role is being fundamentally challenged. Last year independent clubs accounted for three in every four clubs that went out of business. Those that closed had limited physical resources, were unable to grow their membership or raise membership fees. These clubs had been slowly ‘salami-sliced’ by low-cost gyms, upgraded public sector facilities and array of club substitutes until what remained was simply a redundant business. However, as well as resources, what these clubs lacked was a compelling purpose – a reason to exist that inspired its stakeholders.
So during 2016 I am expecting independent clubs to begin redefining themselves from fitness ‘generalists’ to ‘signature specialists’. This means serving up more remarkable fitness experiences powered by passion and a deep expertise.
Most independent clubs cannot become a low-cost provider because they lack suitable infrastructure. Instead they must innovate and built a formidable reputation by doing less, but better than others. They must harness the power of being small, intimate and deep-rooted in their communities to provide a compelling reason for members in 2016 to join and stay.
Note: I wrote this for the 2016 Health Club Management Handbook. The online version can be read here along with opinions from other commentators.