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06 Jun 2024

UK health club market hits record highs
BY Kath Hudson

GLL is the UK's largest public sector operator

GLL is the UK's largest public sector operator
photo: GLL

The UK health and fitness is performing well, especially the private sector, with member numbers, market value and penetration reaching all-time highs.

These are the key findings from Leisure DB, which launches its annual State of the UK Fitness Industry Report at the Evolve conference today (6 June), in London.

The report – which was previously only available for purchase – is available free of charge for the first time this year, since the company pivoted to sponsorship funding.

In the 12 months to the end of March 2024, Leisure DB says there was a slight rise in the number of gyms in its sample from 6,998 in 2023 to 7,009, a 0.2 per cent increase, although the number remains below the high of 7,239 in 2019.

The other key metrics are above both 2019 and 2023 levels. Across the UK, there's a penetration rate of 15.9 per cent when assessed against the entire population (up from 15.1 per cent the previous year), with 10.7 million people having a health club membership compared with 10.3 million in 2023.

Breaking down the 15.9 per cent penetration, the private sector has a double the penetration rate of the public sector with private delivering 10.9 per cent of the 15.9 per cent and the public attracting the remaining 5 per cent.

The market value is £5.9 billion, up from £5.4 billion the year before.

Leisure DB's market value number gives a year-on-year, like-for-like view of the sector and is calculated by multiplying the number of members with the rate for a single, peak membership. It does not account for discounting, off-peak rates and the impact of aggregators such as ClassPass and is not adjusted for inflation.

By number of gyms, PureGym is the largest UK private sector operator and GLL is the largest public operator. During the reporting period, three operators added 10 or more gyms to their estate: PureGym (34) Everyone Active (12) and JD Gyms (10).

Private sector
There are 4,513 private health clubs in the UK with 120 opening during the year and 129 closing as operators continue to reengineer their portfolios following the pandemic. Most of the closures were independent gyms – 45 of the new openings were low-cost.

Although there was a net decrease of nine clubs compared to the previous year, there's been a 5.1 per cent increase in membership to 7.33 million and a 10.9 per cent increase in market value to £4.48 billion. The penetration rate is the best yet, with 4.5 per cent of the UK population now members of a low-cost, private sector health club.

The top 10 private operators by number of clubs are: PureGym, The Gym Group, Anytime Fitness, Nuffield Fitness & Wellbeing, David Lloyd Clubs, Snap Fitness, JD Gyms, Bannatyne, Sports Direct Fitness and énergie Fitness. Between them they account for 30 per cent of all private clubs and more than 60 per cent of private sector membership and market value.

The biggest players are PureGym (379 sites) and The Gym Group (234) which have been largely responsible for pushing membership in the low-cost segment beyond three million this year. The biggest franchisors – Anytime Fitness, énergie Fitness and Snap Fitness – now have 324 clubs between them, down from 327 in 2023. They opened 21 clubs between them and closed 24. Drilling down into this, Snap Fitness has told HCM it gained six clubs last year.

Prices have gone up. For the first time the average low-cost monthly fee has risen above £24 and 89 per cent of all UK low-cost clubs now charge £20 or more a month. Those in London are the most expensive, charging an average of £30.10, compared with £23.05 outside the capital.

PureGym’s average fee is 4.5 per cent higher than last year and The Gym Group’s is up 9.3 per cent as part of its push to optimise market rates against its competitors.

David Lloyd has the highest average monthly membership – more than £150 – followed by Nuffield, starting at £85.

In the independent sector, there's been a reduction of seven clubs: down from 2,178 in 2023 to 2,171 in 2024. However there's been a 2.9 per cent increase in members to 1.42 million and the market value has gone up by 8.8 per cent to £796 million.

Around 33 per cent of private clubs are open 24/7.

Public sector clubs
The total number of public sector gyms has fallen to 2,496 compared to 2,538 in 2023 – a difference of 42. Despite this, member numbers have risen by 1.9 per cent to 3.36 million; penetration has reached 5 per cent (from 4.9) and market value has increased by 6.2 per cent to an all-time high of £1.44 billion.

At 46 per cent, the majority of public sector facilities are managed by a trust, but there is a noticeable trend for insourcing that now accounts for 20 per cent of the market. Educational establishments run 14 per cent of public sector sites, while leisure management contractors operate 9 per cent.

Wth 195 facilities, GLL is largest trust operator and is aiming to achieve £2 billion of social value over the five years.

Only 1 per cent of public sector gyms are open 24/7 and the average membership fee charged is £32.07.

The penetration rate varies around the UK, with London having the highest rate at 19.9 per cent, with 826 gyms and a value of £1.38 billion. It’s 16.5 per cent in Scotland, with 657 gyms. The rest of England has 16 per cent penetration with 5,778 gyms; Wales sits at 14 per cent, with 385 gyms and Northern Ireland has 11.3 per cent penetration and 189 gyms.

Leisure DB founder, David Minton, has been analysing the UK health and fitness industry for almost 20 years. Figures come from a proprietary database that holds details for 7,009 fitness sites across the UK.

The database is updated daily by a team of researchers with phone calls to sites each year, while bots and other digital resources are used to monitor changes, along with site visits and self-reporting. The 138-page report includes interviews with leaders from across the industry.

The full report is available to read free here State of the UK Fitness Industry Report 2024

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