Fitness Franchise Industry Report
Events such as the Olympic Games, a gathering dedicated to spotlighting people in prime physical condition, give credence to the thought that human attention to fitness has been around for centuries. Popular sayings such as “survival of the fittest” make it conceivable that the human pursuit of fitness has been around as long as man has. Fitness in prehistoric times was probably a necessity to survive due to the endurance needed to perform hunting and gathering tasks. Over time, physical fitness has been elevated in societies because of its helpfulness in times of battle and territorial expansion. But also over time, as society evolved and more industrial processes were developed, there was a shift to fitness being more of a leisurely action. However, despite fitness not being paramount to survival in current times, it still remains paramount to health and well-being.
However, in a modern-day society inhabited by many people who live lives so hectic they can hardly find the time to think let alone exercise, along with a number of people who have allowed themselves to become sedentary through over-indulging in things like fast food, watching TV, computer usage, and playing video games, there’s little wonder why a significant segment of the population has found it difficult to maintain healthy habits.
Over the past 20 years the rate of obesity in the United States has increased steadily. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that in 2010 no state had an obesity rate under 20% (or 1 in every 5 people). Additionally, about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese as are approximately 12.5 million (or 17%) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years.1
The data is alarming, but there are many fitness success stories out there. The tide appears to be turning in the area of personal fitness in the United States. A renewed interest in improving quality of life, bolstered by government programs and mass media, has reached near obsession-level in recent years leading to the growth in the fitness industry. If you’ve always dreamed of working with people to improve their health and well-being while providing a service to your local community, a fitness franchise may be the right option for you.
Source: President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (http://www.fitness.gov/)
Overview of the Industry
Many consider the late Jack LaLanne the founder of the “Modern Fitness Movement” with his eponymous TV exercise show that ran from the early-1950s until the mid-1980s. In addition to his TV program, he invented what some call the predecessors of various pieces of exercise equipment and sold products to assist people in improving their quality of life like juicers, exercise videos, and fitness books. He also opened dozens of fitness studios under his name, eventually licensing them to Bally Total Fitness.2
Although the exact beginning of the fitness industry is unclear, it has had consistent growth for an extended period of time, including a boom period that saw the number of Americans who said that they did something outside of work to promote their own physical fitness jump from less than 25% in 1961 to more than 66% by the early 1990s.3 The recent economic downturn stagnated growth for a few years, but the industry is proving resilient. According to the International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association, U.S. health-club membership rose in 2010 by 10.8%.4
There are three main divisions of fitness franchises: fitness centers, health clubs, and weight loss centers. The divisions have considerable overlap in the services they provide. Combined these three divisions account for revenues of over $70 billion annually in the U.S. with both fitness centers and health clubs generating over approximately $20 billion each, and diet industry estimated to generate over $30 billion a year.5 Revenues within the industry don’t only come from exercise-related services, but also the sale of products such as foods, supplements, weight reduction products, equipment, and clothing.
Diversity is a major attribute of the industry. Not only are there franchises dedicated to certain segments of the population (e.g. centers that cater to women or kids), but there’s also a wide variety of services that can be provided by a single franchise. Personal training, step/bench aerobics, cardio kickboxing, yoga, strength training, aerobics classes, and spinning classes are just a sampling of the programs offered by fitness franchises.
Because many franchises cater to a specific niche in the market, the industry is very fragmented. For example, the 50 largest fitness centers account for about 30 percent of revenue, and only a few dozen companies operate more than 10 centers.6 Major franchisors include Bally Total Fitness, Gold’s Gym, Curves, The Little Gym, Snap Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Jazzercise, and Diet Center. Competition for operators of fitness franchises come from both for-profit and non-profit sectors, with the latter including organizations like the YMCA and community centers. In addition, franchisees will face competition from online and other non-brick-and-mortar entities, trainers not affiliated with companies, and people who execute their own fitness program independently. Many franchises within the fitness industry offer services that overlap with some franchises within the health and beauty industry as well.
With so many options in the marketplace, profitability in this industry is heavily dependent on good marketing. Franchisees have an advantage through the brand recognition and cooperative advertising efforts that franchise systems offer. Franchisors also offer economies of scale in advertising and buying equipment that many independent operations cannot match.