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Private sector drives UK fitness industry growth, report shows

The UK health and fitness industry has continued to grow with the private sector being the main driving force, a latest report has revealed.

The 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report shows that memberships rose by 5.1 per cent to 9.7m which boosted the penetration rate to an all-time high of 14.9 per cent, up from 14.3 per cent in 2016. The figures reveal that one in every seven people in the country is a member of a gym.

Over the 12-month period to the end of March 2017, the number of fitness facilities was up 4.6 per cent to 6,728, from 6,435 in 2016. Total market value grew 6.3 per cent to £4.7bn ($6.1bn, €5.6bn).

A total of 272 new public and private fitness facilities opened in the last 12 months, up from 224 in 2016.

The report said: “Whilst the private sector has opened more clubs than those that have closed year on year since 2012, the public sector saw more closures than openings for the second year in a row. For the first time in five years, the public sector also saw a slight decline in membership numbers.”

The low-cost market continued to be the main driving force behind private sector growth. There are more than 500 low-cost clubs which account for 15 per cent of the market value and 35 per cent of memberships in the private sector.

The UK’s leading operators, in both the private and public sectors (by number of clubs and members), remain the same as last year: Pure Gym and GLL, with 176 and 167 gyms, respectively.

David Minton, director of The Leisure Database Company, which published the report, said the industry is likely to hit several milestones in the next 12 months. The number of gyms is on course to go over 7,000 for the first time, total membership to exceed 10m, market value to reach £5bn ($6.5bn, €5.9bn) and the penetration rate should surpass 15 per cent.

Speaking to Health Club Management, Minton said: “The private sector is on track to hit milestones in 2018. It is entering a golden age.

“New technology is widening people's interest in fitness and consumers are able choose much more because the industry is becoming more transparent. If consumers want something for free they can choose that. The industry has opened up much more. Consumers are driving growth through different business models.

“Between 2004 and 2009 the industry was flat and stale and very boring to most people. Fitness has become more fun and engaging, and provides more excitement for people.”

Minton added that the public sector could also see growth.

He said: “There are opportunities for people to invest in the public sector but the sector has to be more open to investment. GLL, Pulse and Freedom are all investing but they are a small percentage of the overall market. Fifty percent of [public] facilities are still run in-house, by education or community groups.”

The full report is available here

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The UK health and fitness industry has continued to grow with the private sector being the main driving force, a latest report has revealed.
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