Major fitness brands set to transform gym experience, says industry report

Close up of Ray Algar, Managing Director of Oxygen Consulting speaking at the IHRSA European Congress in Amsterdam

The biggest, most popular names in the fitness industry – names such as LA Fitness, Fitness First, Anytime Fitness and Sports Direct – are likely to bring major improvements to what they offer consumers during 2015, some of them virtually reinventing themselves, predicts a major new, 38 page report into the state of the UK fitness industry.

“Review of the UK Health and Fitness Industry and Outlook for 2015” is written for the second year running by industry analyst Ray Algar and released today by Oxygen Consulting, the Brighton-based global fitness industry consultancy.


Front cover showing illustration of Ray Algar pointing towards the years 2014 and 2015Among its predictions for 2015 is the fate of the so-called “squeezed middle” sector – gyms where monthly charges fall between £21 and £49 and where the most well-known major brands operate. The sector has been under considerable pressure from the rise of low cost gyms, where fees as low as £5 a month (and little or no long-term commitment) are fuelling rapid growth.

Ray Algar’s report suggests that this pressure will continue, with the low cost sector’s market share rising in 2015 from 23% to a full 30% while the share for the squeezed middle falls for the first time below 50%. But rather than sounding doom and gloom for the big brands, the report suggests that 2015 is where the fight-back begins, to the considerable benefit of the consumer.

The makeovers predicted for many of the brands range from new technology for names such as Virgin Active and David Lloyd, with better, faster fitness feedback and more engagement with users, to a wholesale “brand transformation from historic mediocrity to something both more intelligent and relevant to members” for Fitness First, with the return of the (better qualified) trainer and many more interactions with users and the wider community. For many brands, this potentially means a move away from being merely providers of facilities to taking a central place in the health and wellbeing of their users and their neighbourhoods … with, of course, the hoped-for bonus of improved customer retention.

These upgrades are not only driven by the need to hold on to customers. Borrowing remains cheap, but will not do so forever, while something of a shakeout in debt restructuring, mergers and acquisitions make investment more likely … though, as the report makes clear, at least one well-known brand could disappear entirely, along the way.

But, as the report’s author Ray Algar says: “The winner in 2015 will undoubtedly be the consumer. For those who want low monthly fees and a DIY experience, there will be much more choice. For those who pay and expect a little more, the facilities and personal services on offer should be markedly improved and in some cases transformed almost beyond recognition. 2015 will be the year of the better fitness club experience.”

Purchase the report

“Review of the UK Health and Fitness Industry and Outlook for 2015 is a full colour and interactive report and available for immediate download as a digital PDF from the Oxygen Consulting Knowledge Store.

Notes for editors

The report writer, Ray Algar, is managing director of Oxygen Consulting, a Brighton, UK, based company that provides compelling strategic business insight for organisations connected to the global health and fitness industry.

Ray is also a past chairman of Wave Leisure Trust, a social enterprise operating seven leisure centres in the South East of England. He was involved for more than six years and experienced its transition from a start-up to a highly influential leisure organisation making a significant social impact on the communities it serves.

In July 2013, Ray launched Gymtopia, an award-winning digital platform that shares stories and insights about how the global health and fitness industry is creating positive social impact.

Ray’s previous industry reports include:
• 2014 Fitness Sector Social Good Report
• 2013 Review of the UK Health and Fitness Industry and an Outlook for 2014
• 2012 UK Low-cost Gym Sector Report
• 2011 Global Low-cost Gym Sector Report
• 2011 European Health Club Industry Web and Social Media Report
• 2010 UK Low-cost Gym Sector Report