Fitness in Fashion

 
 

 

The fitness industry currently employs 188,000 people in the UK and in 2016 the aggregate revenue of UK gyms was reportedly £4.6billion.  With annual growth rates of more than 14%, this is projected to grow to a staggering £8.8billion by 2020.

 
 
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Technological advancements in sports and nutritional science, the availability of this information and a general awareness and acknowledgement of the importance of Health & Wellbeing have increased exercise levels in the UK.  However, this is not just a fad, with fitness no longer perceived as just an activity, but the cornerstone of a modern lifestyle - social, rewarding, rebalancing, and increasingly tribal. 

The sector needed to evolve to meet the demands of evermore discernible consumers, and is doing so with the traditional fitness models being turned on their heads by the new protagonists.  Conventional models required customers to sign up for fix contractual periods and pay joining fees, which created a divided and immobile client base.  This structure also gave rise to complacency amongst the big box operators, stifling both innovation in training formats and reinvestment in their facilities.

This is in sharp contrast to the revolution that we have experienced in the retail sector, where consumer promiscuity, price transparency, and most pertinently brand identity and engagement have become fundamental success criteria.

The traditional operators have been slow to respond, and this has led to a polarisation in the market.   Budget gyms offering more rudimentary facilities have grown market share via value driven consumers, whereas Boutique studios providing a more luxe and socially engaging experience have attracted those willing to allocate more of their disposable income on Fitness.  The middle market has been squeezed (arguably irreversibly).    

One of the greatest attractions of the boutique brands is the inherent flexibility they provide - allowing customers to pay as they go whilst offering ultimate convenience, of where, when and how to train.  They have designed their clubs to ensure consumers have everything they need before and after their workout.  Their flexibility on size and formats has also facilitated expansion (overcoming the historic problems of scale and affordability for operators in densely populated Cities).  They have also created a level of engagement and personal interaction that was previously missing – take the Rebel Army (1Rebel’s social media footprint) which comprises over 40,000 people who interact daily with the brand and each other.

No longer the reserve of inferior basement or upper floor accommodation with little alternative use value, boutique gyms such as 1 Rebel, Barry’s, Frame, and Another Space are going toe to toe with retailers and restauranteurs for the right space.  Any mixed-use development coming forth should comprise a quantum of D2 space to enhance the overall attractiveness of the location, providing an amenity value that will drive interest from residents, office occupiers and visitors alike. 

The social element of class-based fitness (facilitated by the fact that people are not training purely at a subscribed club), has given rise to a new notion of fitness as a hang-out experience.  In turn this is also contributing to the wider commercial success of places, driving frequency of visits, and stimulating further spending through pre or post work out shopping and dining. 

We have seen competitive tension for space in this sector outstripping its more mature alternative uses, and a new brand is emerging almost every week.  As in every growth market, leasing decisions need to be made wisely, ensuring that occupiers are selected not just on their willingness to overpay versus the competition, but their ability to stand the test of time.

Fitness is in fashion.  For good reason.  Certainly not just for a season.

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