24/7 Fitness Trend Shows No Sign of Slowing

The stellar performance of 24/7 fitness franchises on Australian high streets and in shopping malls and suburban areas is showing no signs of slowing.

Over the past five years, the shape of the fitness product has changed dramatically. Not only have programs such as Yoga, Zumba and Boot Camp continued to grow, but new trends such as combat-based programs, functional training and CrossFit have also arrived on the market — and thrived.

With over four million participants in fitness activities, this growth has, in part, been supported by the rise of adventure, mass exercise, multisport and obstacle events, with participation events such as Miss Muddy, The Stampede, Tough Mudder and The Colour Run increasing their volume of participants each year, while also driving participants to be in shape and prepared for their event.

A strong economic outlook for the fitness industry.

OThe fitness industry has grown steadily since 2009. The Australian Fitness Industry Report for 2012 described a $1.4 billion contribution to Australia’s GDP and a strong economic outlook with fitness industry growth expected to continue in conjunction with increasing levels of community participation in fitness.

Unlike traditional ‘big box’ clubs, with a wide range of services and high overheads, 24/7 clubs have far lower costs and the various franchise models available allow entry into the market with a relatively small investment — generally less than $500,000.

The 24/7 clubs’ ‘no frills’ approach mean they can be profitable with relatively small membership numbers and low operating costs, while their convenient locations can cater for specific demographics and user groups. As a result of the arrival of 24/7 clubs, membership catchment areas across the fitness industry have generally shrunk, with members’ travel times to gyms reducing as they take advantage of convenient locations.

“Based on population, Australia is the most franchised nation in the world.”

Coupled with Australia’s love of franchising, Australia’s major fitness franchisors are growing, with reputable brands such as Anytime Fitness, Jetts, Plus Fitness, Stepz, Snap Fitness and Vision Personal Training backing their franchisees with training and ongoing support, thus increasing the likelihood of success for both the franchisor and franchisee.

In addition, specialist franchisors are focussed on specific product areas. These include F45 Training (functional training), KX Pilates, Ready Steady Go Kids (children’s fitness), Sportybots (children’s fitness), True Blue (franchised clubs in country towns) and Xtend Barre (a fusion of dance and Pilates). Equally, operators of women-only networks, where the fitness franchise model was born, such as Envie Fitness and Fernwood Fitness have thrived.

Many of Australia’s fitness franchises are loved by the business media, with Anytime Fitness, Jetts and Plus Fitness each receiving awards for being fast-growing and high-performing operations.

Having opened over 100 gyms around Australia in the past three, the Plus Fitness 24/7 franchise model prides itself on having ‘no lock-in contracts’, and providing 24/7 access, 365 days a year.

While the 24/7 Plus Fitness franchise model aims to satisfy customer needs, it also satisfies the needs of its franchisees with its low staff model leading to fast break-evens and potential for further investment and growth either inside or outside the Plus Fitness brand.

Jetts has consistently ranked highly on BRW’s Fast Franchise list, with average annual revenue growth of over 200% over the past three years. Revenue in the company, which started with one Gold Coast gym back in 2007, grew from $3.834 million in 2008/09 to $74.496 million in 2011/12. Currently, Jetts operates over 250 clubs across Australia and New Zealand with close to 250,000 members.

Australia’s expertise in franchising also has export potential.

Children’s fitness franchisors Ready Steady Go Kids and Sportybots have each licensed their models overseas with Sportybots programs licensed in China, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand; and Ready Steady Go Kids in China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Similarly, 24/7 chains are also looking overseas, with Jetts having made an announcement about expansion plans into European markets (Netherlands and the UK) in October.

Nigel Benton – Australasian Leisure Management