Fitness Franchise Industry Overview
The predecessor of the modern day health spa was first opened in 1936 by Jack LaLanne, the “Godfather of Fitness.” After finding a large following through his eponymous TV show, which debuted in 1951, LaLanne opened numerous fitness studios, which were later licensed to Bally Total Fitness.
To many, LaLanne embodied physical fitness. As the legend goes, the “jumping jack” is named after him. But the notion of physical fitness wasn’t always as embraced. As LaLanne recalled, “People thought I was a charlatan and a nut.”
There might have been those who thought LaLanne was a “nut,” but the fitness level of Americans was a concern even back then. In the 1950s, a report was released that unfavorably compared the fitness level of American kids to European kids. Dismayed by the finding, then-President Dwight Eisenhower created the President's Council on Youth Fitness (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, or PCFSN) by executive order.
The fitness boom in America started in earnest in the 1970s. Fed by the running boom, along with greater interest in sports evidenced by the growth of Olympic viewership, the popularity of the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and the passing of Title IX—an education amendment that mandated gender equality in sports—a healthy lifestyle came into vogue by the 1980s as gyms and fitness centers sprang up all over the country.
The U.S. is the largest fitness center market in the world.
Figures from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association reveal that fitness centers amass nearly $80 billion worldwide annually. The United States is the largest market in the fitness center industry with about 28,000 for-profit and non-profit centers bringing in about $25 billion annually. Other countries with a large industry presence include: Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
Over the years, the fitness franchise industry has evolved from one of general workout venues to one with specialized centers. There are now fitness franchises that focus on demographic groups such as women, or children. There are also numerous franchises that focus on specific programs such as boxing, UFC, dance, bodyweight training, and more.
With that in mind, it may not be surprising to learn that the industry is highly fragmented. The largest 50 fitness center companies account for approximately 30% of total industry revenue. Major franchisors include: Gold’s Gym, Curves, The Little Gym, Snap Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Jazzercise, and Kinderdance. Fitness industry franchisees face competition from both for-profit and non-profit companies, in addition to trainers not affiliated with companies, and people who execute their own fitness program on their own.
Because the industry is so competitive it is important for prospective franchisees to do their research on not only what concept is best for them, but also what kind of facility their geographic area can support.
Looking to the Future
Across 2012 to 2022, the fitness industry, specifically fitness trainers and instructors, is expected to see 13% growth in the United States according to the Department of Labor.
Additionally, the number of Americans that reported doing something fitness oriented outside of work was less than 25% in 1961. Over 50 years later, the number has more than doubled. According to CDC research, nearly 50% of Americans (49.6%) exercise regularly.
Businesses are now seeing the benefits of fit employees on their bottom line. In a survey, 20% of workers said easier access to gyms would increase their job satisfaction. Accordingly, many companies now offer incentives to join fitness and health clubs. In fact, Forbes lists gym memberships and gym subsidies as two of the most popular health perks workplaces provide.
Women now outnumber men in gym memberships.
Another trend that is currently spurring growth and appears to show no signs of letting up is the fitness market for the “fairer sex.” In his remarks at the 2014 Nike Women (Product) Showcase, Nike President & CEO Mark Parker said, “For the first time, women outnumber men in gym memberships.”
The general trend in American society towards a greater awareness of fitness and health has contributed to this change. But look closer and you’ll see a specific contributing factor. Over the past two decades, there has been a rise in gyms, including fitness franchises, which cater specifically to women.
Atmosphere is a big reason women turn to women-only gyms and fitness centers. “To me the women-only gym fits into the enjoyment aspect,” Dr. Barbara Bushman, of the American College of Sports Medicine said. “If someone feels more comfortable in that environment and that helps them to stick with their program better, it’s a great thing.”
Getting fit is often tied to self-esteem. A significant number of women are already self-conscious before entering a fitness center. Add to that self-consciousness an atmosphere that, real or imagined, seems uninviting and intimidating and a need emerges in a market that franchisors are ready to cultivate.
In addition to an atmosphere that puts many women at ease, franchises that cater exclusively to women are also more likely to offer a comprehensive approach to fitness rather than focus exclusively on building and toning muscle mass. Other perks include extended hours, personalized training plans, and child care or kids’ corners.
EnVie Fitness for Women, one of the newer women-specific fitness franchises, is a good example of this approach. As Amy Marschel, an EnVie Fitness franchisee explains, “[EnVie has] everything a woman needs to successfully reach her fitness goals in one place at an affordable price. [It has] group training, personal training, equipment designed for women and even a nutrition and guidance plan.” And Marschel emphasizes that the nutritional guidance provided can often be the key to a successful fitness plan.