Fitness Franchise Industry Report
Adapting for Age
There may never be a generation as large as the “baby boomer” generation again. This age cohort, born between 1946 and 1964, has impacted on virtually every facet of American life, and as members of this generation reach senior age they are widely expected to have a huge impact in many areas. Life expectancy increases have led researchers to project that the number of seniors in the U.S. will increase every year through at least 2050 from approximately 37 million people to approximately 87 million people. It’s a market segment so big it simply must be targeted. Opportunity is ripe for fitness franchises operators in this market segment, in part due to the increased motivation rising healthcare costs are providing for individuals to seek ways to maintain quality of life more organically.
Another age group that is making a considerable impact on the fitness franchise industry is the youth demographic. Budget cuts in the educational system have forced many school districts to cut back on physical education programs. These cuts have left parents seeking ways to keep their kids physically active. According to senior analyst Taylor Hamilton of research firm IBISWorld, “Youth memberships have become one of the fastest growth areas for the fitness club industry.” The numbers back up Hamilton’s statement, over the past five years pre-adolescent and teen health club memberships have increased by nearly three percent annually.7 National attention on childhood obesity will lead to an increase in the number of youth-focused classes and clients with fitness service providers according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).8
In addition, both of these demographics haven’t been lost on experts at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). In their annual survey of fitness industry trends, fitness programs for older adults made a jump from #6 for 2010 to #2 for 2011, and children and obesity was the #4 trend in the 2011 ranking.9
No machine can do the workout for you, but technological advances have certainly helped exercisers and fitness franchise owners become more efficient. Traditionally, technology has been used to enhance the operational process of fitness franchises through advertising, marketing, and support forums for customers. Now franchise systems are increasingly expanding their technology usage to perform functions normally done by people. The main reason? Finances. The more personal training tasks completed by machines, the fewer personnel are needed, reducing the amount of overhead required to run the operation.
One example of this is using biometrics to access equipment. 24 Hour Fitness is in the process of converting its locations to cardless check-in, instead of utilizing a front desk employee. A member enrolled in the program would enter one of the gyms by entering a numeric code into a keypad then placing their finger on scanner at the front desk. The company touts the convenience, security, and sustainability of the system as some of the reasons for its implementation.10
Koko Fit Club, a relatively new franchise system, is taking technology usage in fitness franchising to the next level. Founded in 2004, Koko Fit Club offers its customers its patented exercise guidance system and equipment so technologically-advanced that the franchisor claims franchisees can operate a Koko Fit Club with just a single person during staffed hours.