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Health Club Management

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Gyms must raise their game to stay ahead in 2015: ukactive CEO David Stalker

After what has been generally viewed as a successful 2014 for the physical activity sector, the industry must now take further steps to raise its game and evolve in 2015, according to ukactive CEO David Stalker.

Speaking to Health Club Management this month, Stalker reiterates the need for the large gym chains, on which the industry grew in the 1990s, to adapt to the changing market if they are to survive, citing Fitness First’s model as a healthy example.

His vision is backed by other industry analysts including Ray Algar of Oxygen Consulting, who recently spoke at length about the meteoric rise of microgyms at IHRSA 2014 in Amsterdam.

The explosion among the boutique gyms offering specialist training will continue apace, with yoga hubs popping up on many high streets and cycling studios charging fees previously only dreamed about by mainstream operators.

In the public sector, Stalker highlights efficiency drives, enhanced service levels and greater competition as factors which will spur on operators and drive progress. “We will continue to see the growth of the major trusts and management contractors as more local authorities look to the financial comfort and stability that their economies of scale bring,” he said

This will lead to a more challenging market for smaller trusts, he predicts, who may opt to form alliances with larger rivals when they find it harder to retain their contracts in a straight-cut bidding war.

On the back of last year’s proliferation of campaigns to improve public health, including Public Health England’s Everybody Active, Every Day, Sport England’s Get Healthy, Get Active, and ukactive’s Turning the tide of inactivity, Stalker believes the industry now needs to concentrate harder on using wider public health services to bring physical activity into everyday life.

“I expect to see even more integration of physical activity services within wider public health services, such as NHS weight management programmes; integration of public health outcomes within existing contracts, such as those for leisure services; and greater integration between public health and adult social care to enable a health, independent later life,” he added.

In this way, he hopes the industry can improve its reach and stretch beyond the current 13 per cent penetration rate.

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After what has been generally viewed as a successful 2014 for the physical activity sector, the industry must now take further steps to raise its game and evolve in 2015, according to ukactive CEO David Stalker.
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