2021 Outlook: The State of Franchising in the Gym, Fitness & Sport Sector

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Interested in joining the gym, fitness and sport sector? The industry has seen some fairly significant challenges and changes over the past year, but things are looking up. Keep reading for our fitness sector business outlook. 


Under normal circumstances, the fitness sector is a haven for energetic entrepreneurs. It offers high income potential, the chance to stay active and an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of others. But what does the industry hold for 2021? 

The gym, fitness and sport sector in 2021 

In the UK, there are 6,700 health and fitness clubs, with a combined membership base of almost 10 million people - the second-highest number in Europe after Germany. As a result, roughly 15 percent of all UK citizens are members of a health or fitness club. Just under 190,000 people work in the sports and fitness industry, and 62,000 of this group are instructors (Statista).

Fitness clubs are particularly lucrative within the sector. In an average year, facilities across Great Britain generate a combined turnover of almost £2 billion. Individually, fitness clubs typically make between £100,000 and £250,000 (Statista). 

Before the Covid-19 virus struck, one of the biggest trends in the fitness sector was the focus on low-cost gym memberships. Chains like PureGym and The Gym Group offered people the chance to work out for an affordable price, taking customers from rival businesses. 

But when the UK went into lockdown during the pandemic, many gym customers chose to cancel their memberships either temporarily or permanently. The Gym Group reportedly lost 178,000 members between March and mid-July 2020, cutting its total customer base down by 20 percent (IBISWorld). 

During 2020, gyms and other fitness facilities were forced to close their doors for extended periods, but they recorded relatively low infection rates during the times they were open. Collating data from over 2,000 centres, UKActive reported 55 million gym sessions between 25th July and 25th October 2020, with just 1.41 coronavirus cases per 100,000 visits. This research bodes well for the sector as facilities begin to reopen. 

Now Brits have become accustomed to exercising at home, some experts are concerned people will continue with this new habit, saving time and money by avoiding fitness facilities. One study revealed 36 percent of women and 29 percent of men are now more willing to work out at home (CIL Management Consultants). But, according to another, 87 percent of former gym members say they’re likely to resume their membership, and 27 percent of non-members are hoping to join a nearby fitness club (Savanta ComRes). 

While it’s difficult to anticipate the popularity of sports centres when facilities reopen, the continuing benefits of in-person sessions and one-to-one support should help give businesses a boost in 2021. 



The gym, fitness and sport sector business outlook 

At a time when our physical and mental health is suffering more than ever before, sports and fitness businesses can deliver a vital service. Franchises like the Nordic walking company Walx have encouraged adults across the UK to make the most of nearby nature spots

Many gym businesses, including Bodystreet, have delivered online training sessions so people can access professional instruction from home. And clubs such as SportsCool have helped on two fronts by providing engaging children’s sessions during half term, keeping kids healthy and giving adults a break from parenting duties.

Although some fitness businesses have closed their doors since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, many franchises in the industry have been able to report positive growth. To name just a few successes, SportsCool has strengthened its franchisee support programme and introduced children’s yoga classes. Meanwhile, Snap Fitness has expanded into Kent with a new gym location. 



Advantages of running a gym, fitness or sport franchise

There are plenty of reasons to choose the fitness sector over other industries if you’re planning on running your own business. 

Firstly, exercise equipment and classes will probably always be in high demand. As the emphasis on both physical and mental health continues to grow in the UK, gyms and other facilities can expect to continue to attract high numbers of customers. Clubs are particularly important in city centres, where people may not necessarily have green spaces nearby or room in their homes to exercise inside.

While it’s likely a high proportion of former gym members will resume their contracts when facilities reopen, business owners can also take advantage of changing habits by delivering online services. From offering exercise video tutorials and virtual, one-to-one personal trainer sessions to fitness blogs and recipe ideas, there are countless ways to take advantage of technology in 2021

Franchise opportunities in the gym, fitness and sport sector 

If you’re concerned about the state of the gym, fitness and sport sector in 2021, you can increase your chances of success by joining the franchise industry. Investing in an established brand gives you access to a proven model, as well as a team of experts with years of industry experience. 

The fitness sector offers a diverse range of investment opportunities across a wide variety of different areas, from swim schools to children’s clubs, gyms to weight loss companies. Take a look at some of the best gym, fitness and sports franchises in the UK to find out more about your options if you’d like to break into the industry. 

Point Franchise also has a collection of handy guides full of tips and tricks when it comes to setting up a franchise unit. Learn how to run a fitness business from home or start your own outdoor sports business to get started. You might also be interested in discovering some of the best publications and podcasts for the sports, fitness and gym industry

Just use the search box to find more relevant information on the topic you’re exploring. 

>> Read more articles on the Fitness sector

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