The Business of Fitness: What Does It Mean For The Consumer?

Off the back of last week’s post on The Business of Fitness, we wanted to share with you some further trends and what it means for you, as a consumer, going forward.

We’re all a lot more clued up

It’s no longer about being thin; it’s about being fit and healthy. ‘Strong Not Skinny’ is not just a hashtag. No longer are people who go to the gym first thing on a Saturday considered weird: Millennials (those born no earlier than the late 80’s) are more likely to spend their weekends around health-based activities. Think swapping a drunken Friday night followed by a crippling all-day Saturday hangover with a spinning class followed by a juice-bar meet up with friends and an early night as we’ve got yoga at 8am. We’re all about achingly fashionable gym gear: Sportsluxe and athleisure aren’t just made up fashion words. It’s totally acceptable to socialise straight from the gym in your ‘coming-from-a-workout’ workout clothes.

Gyms, not spas

Large, budget gyms with more equipment have replaced the ‘health spa’ fitness centres. The LA Fitness I was a member of in a fancy part of London has been replaced with a PureGym, costing less than HALF of my previous membership fee, and I’ve never been happier. The swimming pool, sauna and steam room (all huge costs for gyms from a profit/ loss perspective, and always practically empty) have been replaced by an entire floor dedicated to weights and S&C equipment. And it’s not full of Gym Douchebags… 

… Women are lifting.

Let’s go back to ‘Strong Not Skinny’. No longer confined to the cardio area and the studio for classes, women have invaded the weights room. Kayla Itsines, Jen Selter, TwoBadBodies (Jennifer Forrester and Kaisa Keranen), Massy Arias and even Tammy Hembrow – I’m sure I’ve missed out your favourite so please post below and let us know who you follow and why – have inspired us to balance our previously cardio-heavy workouts with some weights to get the butts/ abs/ arms/ whatevers of our dreams (or their Instagram feeds). 

Now we know our way around a weight rack, and with online workout programmes available for under £30, no longer are we drawn to a gym because of fluffy towels and sauna. We want to work hard. 

Fitness Pick ‘n’ Mix

Budget gyms offer classes that tend to be – honestly – pretty rubbish. Classes at more high-end gyms such as Gymbox or Virgin tend to be better as the instructors are of a higher quality (they have to be to justify the membership fee). Most no-frills gyms don’t even offer classes. Why? Because we like to mix it up. We don’t like to be tied into a 12-month gym membership, and with many boutique gyms offering reasonable no-contract packages; we can afford the budget gym membership for gym workouts and then visit another studio for far superior yoga/ Pilates/ spinning/ barre classes. 

And then there’s ClassPass, whose entire marketing strategy is built around enticing us away from brand-loyalty (well, except to them, that is) and becoming Lycra-clad studio-hopping exercise-bunnies. “Fitness consumers are becoming more promiscuous”, says Ray Algar, author of a 2015 fitness industry report that identified the change in market. Algar calls it “de-coupling”.

Instagram happened

Studios and gyms need to bear in mind that growth will only occur if the customer leaves class so jacked up on endorphins that they post about it on social media and tell their friends and colleagues how life-changing it was. 

Ray Algar’s report recommends that fitness businesses cash in on this. It’s hard to culture an experiential workout from traditional marketing and advertising campaigns. With the right blogger – or influencer – posting the right content, you’ve got your product slap bam in front of your next potential customers with the added benefit of it coming from a trusted and admired source. Case in point, how many of you have tried a workout or studio based on your favourite bloggers / friends report or endorsement of it? How many of you have stayed away from something for the same reason? Sponsored content should always be marked as what it is – advertising – but even paid-for posts have more influence than an ad on the side of a bus. 

Inspirational ownership

We’re more attracted to organisations that seem to care. A boutique offering where the owner is not only visible, but is so bang on brand you actually want to be her (or him) is a ton more inspiring than a chain fronted by bored receptionists and stressed so-not-on-brand Duty Managers. 

Algar’s report features a case study on SoulCycle founded by Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, who were dissatisfied with the spinning studios on offer, so they opened their own… And the rest is history. SoulCycle isn’t solely responsible for steering the fitness industry towards a boutique-style market, but it showed many people who’d dreamt of opening their own studio that it was possible without selling out to a chain (which they did eventually, to Equinox, but hey; no judgement. Fitness is business).  

In a lot of boutique studios, the owner teaches classes, takes part in classes and can often be found behind the reception desk. It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, giving feedback to your gym was unheard of. Got a complaint? Call head office and be put on hold. In 2016, if we want the coffee bar in our Pilates studio to stock coconut milk (As if it wouldn’t already!), we can catch the owner after class or drop a note via Twitter.  

What are your thoughts on the fitness industry? What do you think will be the ‘next big thing’ ? How have your fitness habits changed over the last few years? 

I’d would love to hear your thoughts, so please comment below or tweet at @X_eLle_S




  1. Lesli Ellen
    October 23, 2016 / 19:16

    This is such an interesting post as I'm literally just going through the do-I-sign-up-with-an-expensive-chain-or-go-the-bargain-gym-and-boutique-classes-route dilemma! I'm still not sure which way I'll go but I love that there are so many more options than 5 or 10 years ago. PS who took your pictures? You look great and they're beautifully shot!

    • Elle Linton
      October 23, 2016 / 21:03

      I'm kind of glad I don't need to decide between the options! I actually don't know how I would as both options have their pros and cons! And thanks for the feedback on the photos! They were taken by Rita of Lolography (the link to her site is at the bottom of this post under my social links)

  2. Bri Wilson
    October 21, 2016 / 13:00

    Interesting! I still struggle with what I post on Instagram as a personal trainer. I don't like/feel weird posting shots of me doing workouts or posing, but I know that's what people sort of expect/want to see.

    • Elle Linton
      October 23, 2016 / 21:05

      I definitely agree with this as a personal trainer myself! I especially feel self conscious taking photos if I am on my own! hahaha! I think I've accepted now that I am who I am, and I will post pictures that fall in line with that! It's the best we can do 😉

  3. Coco
    October 21, 2016 / 10:49

    Interesting insights. I can't believe how expensive some studio classes are. I buy packages to get a better deal, because I do enjoy them.

    • Elle Linton
      October 23, 2016 / 21:06

      Thanks Coco. Times have indeed changed, and fitness now does seem to come at a premium. I think packages are definitely a great way to go as they're so flexible!

  4. October 21, 2016 / 09:58

    I think it is truly fascinating how fitness and health is such a business. I mean I think it always has been it just changes with the times. In the 70s and 80s Jane Fonda and Jazzercise, now it's group fitness/spinning/crossft, I have no doubt in 10 years we willb e on to something else. But for me, if it gets people moving, active, socializing in a healthy way it is all a good thing!

    • Elle Linton
      October 23, 2016 / 21:09

      I am so much in agreement with you when you say "if it gets people moving, active, socializing in a healthy way it is all a good thing"!! …I think I trained up when just as the biggest shift was taking place, my group fitness qualification looked more Jane Fonda than anything I have ever taught since! The only thing that has remained (and only infrequently in my personal experience) is the need to teach choreographed routines! Fascinating!

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