This article is part of our Business Transformation special report, about how the pandemic has changed how the world does business.
Like restaurants, retailers and other businesses normally conducted in crowded locations open to the public, the health and fitness industry in Europe is scrambling to recover and get its business back on track — as soon as it figures out what its business will look like.
The orders by public health authorities to close health and fitness clubs several times have had a profound effect on the industry. The consulting firm Deloitte estimates that clubs in Europe lost 15.4 percent of their members, or more than 10 million people, even when closures were relatively brief. Industry revenue fell twice as much, by almost 33 percent, as clients froze their accounts or requested refunds.
While the pandemic drags on, club executives are trying to fully understand how fundamentally Covid-19 has transformed their industry, which generated $96.7 billion in global revenue in 2019.
“For a long time now, I believe that too many health club leaders around the world assume they have the full and undivided attention of the exercising consumer,” said Ray Algar, a global fitness industry business adviser and analyst with Oxygen Consulting in Brighton, England. “That the gym sits at the top of some exercise industry hierarchy.”
“The gym may have once had this temporary monopoly, but this is over, and the pandemic has demonstrated that consumers can capably locate and enjoy many different gym substitutes,” he said. “What the pandemic has done has made these gym substitutes more visible. So, this does represent a significant inflection point because never has this global industry been challenged to demonstrate its right to serve and support the exercising consumer.”
Stefan Ludwig, a Deloitte partner and leader of the Sports Business Group, said that the lockdowns had indeed had a “significant impact on both consumer behavior and operator offerings.”
A report by ClubIntel, a marketing research and consulting firm, found that closed clubs led many people to lose the habit of exercising regularly and caused others to try alternatives, such as biking, joining a walking club, signing up for video classes (dance and boxing are popular options) or buying an interactive device like a Peloton or Mirror.
Many customers, the report found, …….