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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Research: Lockdown insight

Tracking consumers’ sentiment in relation to lockdowns gives valuable insights into members’ priorities. Leisure-net surveyed the first two UK lockdowns and is currently working on the third. Dave Monkhouse reports on results from the lockdown 2 survey

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 1
Leisure-net Solutions surveyed 33,000 people across 771 facilities run by 64 different operators
Leisure-net Solutions surveyed 33,000 people across 771 facilities run by 64 different operators
Over a third of customers said they felt significantly more comfortable about returning to the gym than to other public places

As health clubs and leisure centres in the UK prepared to re-open in December 2020, after nearly a month in lockdown, Leisure-net Solutions followed up its initial Post Lockdown Recovery Survey – undertaken in June 2020 as the UK prepared to come out of its first lockdown – with a follow-up survey to gauge consumer confidence about returning again to their exercise habits.

Although gyms closed again in January 2021 for lockdown 3, the results of these two surveys yield valuable data about how consumer perceptions changed between the UK’s lockdown 1 and lockdown 2, with significant increases in consumer confidence in the safety of gyms recorded.

This second piece of research, supported by Active IQ, questioned more than 33,000 people across 771 facilities run by 64 different operators, including private gyms, leisure centres, health clubs, schools and universities, to understand what had worked before and during lockdown 2, how customers planned to respond when lockdown 2 was reversed and what types of actions they expect from operators to keep them safe.

Leisure-net director Mike Hill says: “Once again we’ve had a fantastic response to our second lockdown insight questionnaire.

“Building on our original survey – carried out in June 2020 – these results offer considerable insight that will help inform challenging decisions around services and provision for the entire sector going forward in the new economic climate and inform decision-making in any future lockdowns.”

Customers eager to return
The research revealed consumer confidence about returning to facilities was extremely high, with just over three quarters (76.34 per cent) of members questioned saying they would return immediately when the doors to their health club or leisure centre opened, and a further 21 per cent saying they would return within three months; demonstrating the importance placed on getting back to indoor exercise.

The gender and age differences were also clear in the survey, with older age groups more cautious about returning than younger age groups and women more concerned about safety procedures and cleanliness than men.

Respondents indicated faith in their operator’s ability to keep them safe while exercising, with more than 69 per cent of those who returned between July and November expressing great confidence in their facility’s COVID-related systems, processes and practices. In fact, over a third of customers (35 per cent) said they felt significantly more comfortable about returning to their club or centre than to other public places, compared to the June results (17.9 per cent). Only 12 per cent said they were not at all confident.

“First of all, congratulations to our facilities on doing such a great job between July and November. The research very clearly shows a jump in people’s confidence to return to their health club compared to other public places,” says Hill. “However, while this is a good news story, the sector can’t afford to lose 12 per cent of its customer base going forward, so more work needs to be done to reassure the minority who aren’t yet confident, particularly the older age groups, who are less at ease than younger people.”

This finding is in marked contrast with the findings of research in the US fitness market, where older people were more confident to return than younger people and where consumer confidence in the sector is far lower overall (see ClubIntel, p64).

Lockdown reduced activity levels
Leisure-net found activity levels dropped significantly during the November closures, with 69 per cent of respondents stating they had been less active, compared with 52 per cent during the first lockdown, and only 24 per cent of people who track their steps saying their step count had increased, compared to 38 per cent in June.

Analysis of the survey data needs to reflect the different age profiles of the two studies, with the sample from the first lockdown being from younger age groups than the sample from the second.

Younger people reported being consistent in the activities they participated in prior to the two different lockdowns, with the most popular activities being the gym, group exercise and swimming – in that order – while prior to lockdown 2, people in the older age groups used the gym and group exercise slightly less, but were swimming more, as confidence in that activity returned.

Older age groups were walking less prior to lockdown 2, but doing more online activities indoors, while those in younger age groups were running and jogging slightly more, likely due to the good weather.

The percentage of people across all age groups who said that they would be more likely to return to their local gym or leisure centre if it offered online classes as part of the membership, went down slightly during lockdown 2 when compared to lockdown 1.

This may be because some have taken up separate options and are not relying on their gym for these or perhaps because they have tried and not enjoyed them. However, the different was not significant.

Reasons for not returning to their facility related to reduced opening times or reduced programmes, as well as having less disposable income and fear of COVID-19.

In reporting home workouts, Leisure-net asked two questions: what activities did you do and what have you done more of?

In response to the first question, more people reported they had been doing home exercise in the second lockdown than the first, while in response to the second question – what have you done more of? – they reported they had done slightly less ‘additional’ home exercise – perhaps because this has now become part of their core routine.

Prior to second lockdown, the number of people reporting group exercise as their main activity reduced slightly, potentially reflecting the reduced capacity of classes and the closure of group exercise in some areas.

An important element for people considering a return to their club was the staff, with 66 per cent rating the friendliness of staff as very important and 63 per cent stating the support and guidance of the fitness and group exercise team is very important.

“Leisure facility colleagues, gym and fitness instructors must be placed front and centre when the industry re-opens its doors,” says Jenny Patrickson, Active IQ MD.

“The value of soft skills can’t be overstated – this report bears out the fact that we are a ‘people first’ industry and operators must ensure staff are given all the support and refresher training they need to return with confidence in their ability to fulfil their vital roles.”

Leisure-net’s survey results have been widely used to inform decision making, lobby local and central government and shape reopening guidance by organisations such as Sport England, ukactive, CLUK and CIMSPA. Operators also used the results to inform their decisions and maximise the impact of re-opening. The new consumer confidence scores will be used by 4global to inform the modelling of new projections for the sector.

Utku Toprakseven, director of Sports Intelligence at 4global, says: “During the previous lockdown, the confidence score for return to activity was fundamental in the development of our recovery modelling that predicted sector visit rates with 98 per cent accuracy before the second lockdown.

“We will use this new data to inform our predictive modelling and generate recovery curves taking the sector through 2021 and beyond. The depth of the data collected will allow us to adjust this model to reflect differing levels of social distancing measures and tiers of restrictions.

Find out more: www.HCMmag.com/Leisure-net2

Swimming as a person’s main activity rose by 8 per cent from lockdown 1 to 2 / Shutterstock
Swimming as a person’s main activity rose by 8 per cent from lockdown 1 to 2 / Shutterstock
Older age groups said they would use facilities about the same amount / Shutterstock
Older age groups said they would use facilities about the same amount / Shutterstock
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/437226_761159.jpg
Leisure-net’s lockdown 2 survey yielded findings that will set a course for the UK industry as it comes out of lockdown 3
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features

Research: Lockdown insight

Tracking consumers’ sentiment in relation to lockdowns gives valuable insights into members’ priorities. Leisure-net surveyed the first two UK lockdowns and is currently working on the third. Dave Monkhouse reports on results from the lockdown 2 survey

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 1
Leisure-net Solutions surveyed 33,000 people across 771 facilities run by 64 different operators
Leisure-net Solutions surveyed 33,000 people across 771 facilities run by 64 different operators
Over a third of customers said they felt significantly more comfortable about returning to the gym than to other public places

As health clubs and leisure centres in the UK prepared to re-open in December 2020, after nearly a month in lockdown, Leisure-net Solutions followed up its initial Post Lockdown Recovery Survey – undertaken in June 2020 as the UK prepared to come out of its first lockdown – with a follow-up survey to gauge consumer confidence about returning again to their exercise habits.

Although gyms closed again in January 2021 for lockdown 3, the results of these two surveys yield valuable data about how consumer perceptions changed between the UK’s lockdown 1 and lockdown 2, with significant increases in consumer confidence in the safety of gyms recorded.

This second piece of research, supported by Active IQ, questioned more than 33,000 people across 771 facilities run by 64 different operators, including private gyms, leisure centres, health clubs, schools and universities, to understand what had worked before and during lockdown 2, how customers planned to respond when lockdown 2 was reversed and what types of actions they expect from operators to keep them safe.

Leisure-net director Mike Hill says: “Once again we’ve had a fantastic response to our second lockdown insight questionnaire.

“Building on our original survey – carried out in June 2020 – these results offer considerable insight that will help inform challenging decisions around services and provision for the entire sector going forward in the new economic climate and inform decision-making in any future lockdowns.”

Customers eager to return
The research revealed consumer confidence about returning to facilities was extremely high, with just over three quarters (76.34 per cent) of members questioned saying they would return immediately when the doors to their health club or leisure centre opened, and a further 21 per cent saying they would return within three months; demonstrating the importance placed on getting back to indoor exercise.

The gender and age differences were also clear in the survey, with older age groups more cautious about returning than younger age groups and women more concerned about safety procedures and cleanliness than men.

Respondents indicated faith in their operator’s ability to keep them safe while exercising, with more than 69 per cent of those who returned between July and November expressing great confidence in their facility’s COVID-related systems, processes and practices. In fact, over a third of customers (35 per cent) said they felt significantly more comfortable about returning to their club or centre than to other public places, compared to the June results (17.9 per cent). Only 12 per cent said they were not at all confident.

“First of all, congratulations to our facilities on doing such a great job between July and November. The research very clearly shows a jump in people’s confidence to return to their health club compared to other public places,” says Hill. “However, while this is a good news story, the sector can’t afford to lose 12 per cent of its customer base going forward, so more work needs to be done to reassure the minority who aren’t yet confident, particularly the older age groups, who are less at ease than younger people.”

This finding is in marked contrast with the findings of research in the US fitness market, where older people were more confident to return than younger people and where consumer confidence in the sector is far lower overall (see ClubIntel, p64).

Lockdown reduced activity levels
Leisure-net found activity levels dropped significantly during the November closures, with 69 per cent of respondents stating they had been less active, compared with 52 per cent during the first lockdown, and only 24 per cent of people who track their steps saying their step count had increased, compared to 38 per cent in June.

Analysis of the survey data needs to reflect the different age profiles of the two studies, with the sample from the first lockdown being from younger age groups than the sample from the second.

Younger people reported being consistent in the activities they participated in prior to the two different lockdowns, with the most popular activities being the gym, group exercise and swimming – in that order – while prior to lockdown 2, people in the older age groups used the gym and group exercise slightly less, but were swimming more, as confidence in that activity returned.

Older age groups were walking less prior to lockdown 2, but doing more online activities indoors, while those in younger age groups were running and jogging slightly more, likely due to the good weather.

The percentage of people across all age groups who said that they would be more likely to return to their local gym or leisure centre if it offered online classes as part of the membership, went down slightly during lockdown 2 when compared to lockdown 1.

This may be because some have taken up separate options and are not relying on their gym for these or perhaps because they have tried and not enjoyed them. However, the different was not significant.

Reasons for not returning to their facility related to reduced opening times or reduced programmes, as well as having less disposable income and fear of COVID-19.

In reporting home workouts, Leisure-net asked two questions: what activities did you do and what have you done more of?

In response to the first question, more people reported they had been doing home exercise in the second lockdown than the first, while in response to the second question – what have you done more of? – they reported they had done slightly less ‘additional’ home exercise – perhaps because this has now become part of their core routine.

Prior to second lockdown, the number of people reporting group exercise as their main activity reduced slightly, potentially reflecting the reduced capacity of classes and the closure of group exercise in some areas.

An important element for people considering a return to their club was the staff, with 66 per cent rating the friendliness of staff as very important and 63 per cent stating the support and guidance of the fitness and group exercise team is very important.

“Leisure facility colleagues, gym and fitness instructors must be placed front and centre when the industry re-opens its doors,” says Jenny Patrickson, Active IQ MD.

“The value of soft skills can’t be overstated – this report bears out the fact that we are a ‘people first’ industry and operators must ensure staff are given all the support and refresher training they need to return with confidence in their ability to fulfil their vital roles.”

Leisure-net’s survey results have been widely used to inform decision making, lobby local and central government and shape reopening guidance by organisations such as Sport England, ukactive, CLUK and CIMSPA. Operators also used the results to inform their decisions and maximise the impact of re-opening. The new consumer confidence scores will be used by 4global to inform the modelling of new projections for the sector.

Utku Toprakseven, director of Sports Intelligence at 4global, says: “During the previous lockdown, the confidence score for return to activity was fundamental in the development of our recovery modelling that predicted sector visit rates with 98 per cent accuracy before the second lockdown.

“We will use this new data to inform our predictive modelling and generate recovery curves taking the sector through 2021 and beyond. The depth of the data collected will allow us to adjust this model to reflect differing levels of social distancing measures and tiers of restrictions.

Find out more: www.HCMmag.com/Leisure-net2

Swimming as a person’s main activity rose by 8 per cent from lockdown 1 to 2 / Shutterstock
Swimming as a person’s main activity rose by 8 per cent from lockdown 1 to 2 / Shutterstock
Older age groups said they would use facilities about the same amount / Shutterstock
Older age groups said they would use facilities about the same amount / Shutterstock
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/437226_761159.jpg
Leisure-net’s lockdown 2 survey yielded findings that will set a course for the UK industry as it comes out of lockdown 3
Latest News
People with depression should be prescribed exercise and then monitored for the first 12 weeks ...
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Frequent strenuous exercise increases the risk of developing motor neurone disease (MND) in people with ...
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The UK government has extended the ban on commercial evictions until 25 March 2022. Announcing ...
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Operating a further four weeks at reduced capacity will place serious pressure on English fitness ...
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People experiencing homelessness are being offered free access to leisure centres by Oxford City Council. ...
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IHRSA has appointed Elizabeth Clark as its new president and CEO. Clark joins the industry ...
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Opinion
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While much of the fitness industry has reopened its doors across the UK over the past weeks, many members are yet to return.
Opinion: Re-engaging your post-lockdown absent members
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Is broken gym equipment killing your business potential?
You’re pumped and ready for your workout. Then you see it, the dreaded ‘out of order’ signs hanging from treadmills, weight machines or cross-trainers.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Celebrating the return of group exercise – Les Mills to host free ‘Fastest Way Back’ livestream event for the industry
Last month (May) saw the welcomed return of group exercise classes. Group exercise is the heartbeat for so many clubs, with in-studio and instructor-led live experiences at the pinnacle.
Featured operators news
Featured operator news: Being active helps Parkwood Leisure customers save the NHS £16m
Parkwood Leisure, one of the UK’s leading public leisure facilities operators, helped prevent more than 7,000 cases of stroke, dementia, depression and type 2 diabetes in 2019, saving the NHS £16 million, a new social value report has shown.
Featured operators news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active generates £342m in social value
Award-winning leisure operator Everyone Active generated £342million in social value at its sites across the country in 2019/20.
Company profiles
Company profile: énergie Fitness
énergie helps franchisees to build a gym business with a potential value of £0.5m to ...
Company profiles
Company profile: EMD UK
EMD UK is the national governing body for group exercise. Funded by Sport England, EMD ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Uniforms
Service Sport: Uniforms
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Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
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MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Fitness equipment
Precor: Fitness equipment
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
01-04 Jul 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
18-19 Sep 2021
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
28-29 Sep 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2021
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
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