How do you read the future? All you can do is look at the trends and make an educated guess based on the way things are going now. You have to make some judgment calls as well, because trends can reverse unexpectedly or they can be hidden in mountains of information. Also, trends can fail to pan out and just turn out to be short-term fads.
It’s really hard to make predictions with any kind of certainty. But you have to try to anticipate what’s ahead as a business owner, if only to plan your investments. The more of the background you know about and how rapidly those changes can emerge, the easier it is to recover when they happen. Just understand that the risk of making predictions based on current trends is that they can turn out to be fads or suddenly reverse for no apparent reason.
Demographics: Out There In The World
The Center For Economic Vitality (CEV) at Western Washington University published a report on the trends in fitness centers. It has a lot of great information. I also found a fascinating discussion on The Future of Gyms by Paul Sawers on thenextweb.com.
Locations and site choices are highly important. The CEV study shows that people will tend to not drive further that they can go in fifteen minutes travel time. This is crucial when you are first setting up your gym or if you are deciding where to locate an expansion branch. It is going to be vitally important to follow the movements of population. Ten years sound like a long time off in the future. But, no doubt, you do want to be in business in the long-term, so keep population movement in mind.
The CEV report claims that there are four specific lifestyle groupings that are likely to be interested in joining your gym; assuming that you have the sort of programs they want. These are: weight control, running and jogging, health improvement, and physical fitness and exercise. These diverse demographics can be marketed to directly, to help focus your choices about equipment and service provision.
There have been pushes within the gym equipment market to develop the home gym segment. Very tellingly that has not really developed yet. Theoretically this could be a threat to gyms and fitness centers. In practice, like I’ve been saying, I think that’s not so much of a threat. I, and pretty much everyone I know, have fitness equipment at home that never gets used. People still need the connection of a gym membership to really be satisfied with their progress in fitness.
Another threat, which may have slightly more impact, is the emergence of classes and group activities in public spaces. Groups that organized through social media are able to put together classes in the park for yoga instruction or more aggressive activities like Military Fitness classes, which Sawers talks about. Of course this is going to be more seasonal as only the most rugged will want to participate in rain, snow and mud.
The Fitness Business Is Not Going Away
One interesting point that Sawers brings up is that members want the latest and greatest equipment, when they see the benefits of it. Gym owners need to market their expansions in equipment and services actively so that members are aware and can take advantage. This is perhaps the one best tip to get the best return out of your investments.
The fitness industry isn’t going away anytime soon and there will be opportunities in abundance. As a small gym owner you want to make sure that you pay close attention to the trends, without making any false steps like over committing to short-lived fads in fitness. You want make sure every dollar you invest is effective. What I’ve discussed here is still fairly basic in scope and I suggest you do your own research and read the words of the main fitness industry associations to make up your own mind.
Over to you…
What is your prediction for the fitness industry’s future?