• Chloe Reynolds

How will Coronavirus affect the fitness industry?

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

As the world settles in to this new “normal” the fitness industry is accepting that things will not be how they used to for many months to come. At first we tried social distancing and extra cleaning to keep our facilities open, until the government asked us all to close on March 20th 2020. There have already been some huge changes to operations in the fitness industry during quarantine, with many people working out in the front rooms and people rushing to get content on their Instagram pages. But what will happen to the industry once we are allowed to open the doors to gyms once more? Here are my predictions (we’ll check back in a year’s time to see if I was correct!)

Sales of gym memberships will skyrocket

Once gyms open their doors, I envisage a large spike in the amount of new gym memberships being sold. One real positive of this quarantine is that many people are starting to pick up new activity and exercise habits. As exercise is one of the only reasons we are allowed to leave the house, many are taking up running, going for long walks or discovering new group fitness classes through streaming services. They say it takes 21 days to build a habit, which is the minimum length of this quarantine. These people will be keen to continue what they have been working on and filled with gusto and a new lust for life post quarantine, will look to join a gym. Group fitness classes will become busy and I believe we will see a boom similar to the “New Year’s Resolution” peak we see every January.

Boutique clubs will be forced to change their business structure

Boutique clubs such as F45, Barry’s Bootcamp and SoulCycle may be hit the hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic and could be forced to completely change their business structures. These clubs tend to deliver one type of high-quality exercise experience in prime city centre locations and charge a premium price for it! In the rising markets before Coronavirus, people were willing to pay for one off exercise experiences as they had more disposable income, often to the tune of £20 per class in London. These businesses rely mainly of pay as you go members rather than monthly memberships for their revenue. However, these chains were some of the first to close in the City of London as footfall fell so drastically in the first two weeks of March. With people working from home and limited monthly membership packages to tide them over, they were not getting enough daily revenue to remain open. To add to their woes, these clubs often have high rents due to being in prime locations and high costs of operation, with smaller profit margins. To survive post Coronavirus, I believe we will see a shift in the boutique model to more reliance on a monthly membership package and a widening offering to include a gym floor or free gym time to justify these packages.

Budget gyms will profit most (if they survive)

Budget chains such as PureGym and Anytime Fitness could profit the most from the post Coronavirus surge in interest. The business model of these chains is cheap memberships at a large volume. The economic hardship that the Coronavirus is causing for many will see some big cuts to household expenses over the coming months. Those who were previously paying £100 a month for a health club membership may be tempted to dial it back for a few months until their finances recover whilst those who have just caught the fitness bug will probably want to start with a low cost membership to continue their new routine. The crux of the matter will be if the budget chains can survive. They have all seen rapid expansion over the last decade, opening as many sites as possible to get new members through the doors. With large amounts of borrowing to their names, it’s touch and go whether some of these companies will make it through a few months of no revenue.

We will lose some quality trainers from the industry

With the unemployment crisis that Coronavirus is causing across the world, there is a high chance of quality trainers dropping out of the industry. Whilst some are starting to shift their business online, the lack of real support for self-employed people may force fitness professionals into more stable, employed roles. When gyms open again, all trainers will have to rebuild their business almost from scratch, with many of their clients now being unable to pay and gym chains cutting classes due to their own financial losses. People may be drawn towards office roles for a short period of time that would give them the option to work from home and have more financial security if the virus were to ever hit again.

More people will be operating online

The biggest change I think will happen post Coronavirus is that many trainers who have taken their fitness business online will continue to operate in this space. They will start to generate new revenue from online classes and clients and will be unlikely to throw it all away once they can get back into the gym. I believe the pandemic will increase the amount that we do via computers and phones, so there is massive opportunity here for fitness professionals to take advantage of.

We will have to wait and see whether any of these predictions turn out to be true. What we do know is that the world is going to be a very different place post Coronavirus, and it will be interesting to see how the fitness industry reacts to the new world we will be living in.


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