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Ukactive update: New report shows sector growth

A new report by ukactive highlights the fitness sector’s recent growth and the exciting possibilities this brings. ukactive executive director Steven Ward explains

by Steven Ward, ukactive | Published in Health Club Management 2016 issue 11
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
The activity sector 
will be worth £7.7bn 
by the end of this year
The activity sector will be worth £7.7bn by the end of this year

The last 12 months have featured some significant steps forward for the physical activity sector.After nearly 15 years without any listed gym operators, we now have The Gym Group flying the fitness flag on the London Stock Exchange. Although Pure Gym recently had to pull out of its own IPO, when the global markets settle down post-Brexit we could see other chains following the lead of the Gym Group.

When coupled with the high-profile acquisition of Fitness First by DW Fitness, it’s clear to see that investors are alive to the potential of our sector.

This was further evidenced at the launch of ukactive’s new financial report last month, when the leading lights of the City rubbed shoulders with our sector’s shining stars at Legal & General’s London HQ.

A bright future
Although long in its gestation, the Rise of the Activity Sector is a very timely report. It spotlights the UK’s fast-changing fitness landscape and predicts that the gym sector’s value will grow by 17 per cent in 2016 – buoyed by a fresh wave of investment and strong market sentiment.

Valuation specialist Mazars and sponsorship expert Nielsen Sports conducted analyses for the report, which estimates the sector will be worth £7.7bn by the end of 2016 (up from £6.6bn last year) as investors are enticed by the sector’s strong growth prospects.

Through a series of in-depth case studies, the report charts the rise of the low-cost sector, led by the likes of Pure Gym and The Gym Group, which have been credited with ‘democratising fitness’. Offering lower prices, 24-hour access and shorter-term contracts, low-cost gyms have played a key role in removing many of the traditional barriers to holding gym membership.

At the other end of the spectrum, the report explores how premium operators such as David Lloyd Leisure, Nuffield Health and Virgin Active have refined their propositions by investing in family-friendly, full-service offerings. It also examines the growing prominence of boutique fitness studios such as Heartcore and Barry’s Bootcamp, which have led the way in offering high-end fitness experiences on a pay-as-you-play basis.

Open for business
With more than £1bn added to the sector’s value in just 12 months, we expect the report to serve as a clear signal that the physical activity sector is open for business. Opportunities abound, particularly around the areas of public health, technology and workplace wellness. The report tells the story of our sector to date and fashions a compelling narrative which can serve as the springboard for meaningful and purposeful conversations with investors.

But of course, with great opportunity comes even greater expectation: if we want to attract investment, the onus will fall on all of us to realise the sector’s true potential and make good on our ambitious targets.

Being required to continuously hit demanding growth targets will no doubt bring its own challenges, but if the achievements of the companies featured in the valuation report are anything to go by, our sector is more than capable of delivering lasting success.

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