Reasons for optimism
It is undeniable that the health and fitness sector has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, as gyms had to close and consumer work/life habits had to change. Add to this the current geopolitical uncertainty and inflationary trends impacting consumer sentiment and disposable income, and one may be forgiven for wondering whether there are any reasons for optimism in the sector.
In our latest health and fitness sector update, we draw on our recent consumer research to uncover a number of insights suggesting the sector does have real reasons for optimism going forward:
The increase in exercise we saw when lockdowns first happened appears to be here to stay. Exercise is one of the stickiest activities we have reviewed with over 50% of all consumers expecting to maintain or increase their levels of exercise vs the period of COVID-19 restrictions (and this translates to c.80% of consumers once we exclude those who say they do not exercise).
Consumers tell us that exercise is one of the top 5 activities that are important to their lifestyle (among other activities such as going on holiday, watching films at home, eating out, and shopping). Gym goers feel even more strongly and place exercise as their top activity and going to the gym within their top 3 most important lifestyle activities.
Underlying long-term demand drivers such as the growing population, affluence and consumer interest in health and wellness also remain. Also younger and/or affluent gym going demographics tend to be more optimistic and less impacted by economic pressures
The COVID-19 restrictions forced people to experiment with different exercise locations (e.g. at home, outdoors) and different channels (e.g. online personal training or classes). This has accelerated pre-crisis growth trends for digital fitness participation and for operators looking to cater to customers in “all places at all times”and has driven significant sector innovation.
As trends for exercising across locations and channels (physical and digital) become embedded, new and established operators are finding different ways to serve consumers (i.e. when they work from home or the office, training indoors or outdoors). This is not without challenges and the degree to which this presents a risk or opportunity depends on individual operator propositions and how they are able to cater to evolving consumer preferences and to monetise this changing usage. However, the current landscape does create opportunities across both physical and digital offerings for both emerging and established operators. Gym groups can take the opportunity to capture the net incremental gains that digital presents and optimise portfolios and formats for changing patterns of work and play. New digital offerings can also take advantage, working both independently or in conjunction with gyms.