Welcome to the latest edition of our Insight e-newsletter

MARCH 2009

Fitness Industry Under The Microscope

Increased sports and fitness participation results in robust trading

So far this year car makers have reported a drop in sales of up to 70%. Hotel REVPAR figures show declining occupancy rates across the industry, including the budget brands and insolvencies in the sector doubled over the winter. Bingo and Casino operator Gala Coral is just another casino brand thought to be worth less than its accumulated debt, while some coffee and pub brands are no better off and closures continue. Even my favourite bakery in London, Baker and Spice, went into administration at the end of February.

David Minton

Yet amongst the doom & gloom and the millions of lay-offs there’s some good news on participation and healthy life-styles coming from the five a side sector and public sector sports & fitness. The five a side company Goals is proving its resilience and is on track for continued double digit earnings growth with football now accounting for 77% of revenue. Goals carried out a survey of 1,000 customers across 31 sites and found 91% of the respondents intend to use Goals as much or more over the coming year.  This is encouraging in terms of participation and customer feedback. Has any fitness club done something similar? Powerleague also reported higher profits on revenues that were up by 29% and Eb(f)itda up by 19%. The group described its trading as ‘robust’ due to increased participation.


If the public sector sports and fitness arena had one voice it too would be saying that trading is ‘robust due to increased participation’. Across the country, across the sector, leisure management contractors, trusts, core-cities and in-house teams have all seen strong growth in a range of sports participation, fitness membership and income.  At the Scottish recreation managers meeting in mid-February, when asked for a show of hands on who had seen like for like sales and membership growth in January, everyone had their hand high. Renfrew, who hosted the meeting, were delighted, declaring an average 28% growth in fitness members across its four sites and February was ahead of target despite the snow. Edinburgh had seen a 13% growth in membership numbers and similar stories, albeit not all so high, came from all corners of Scotland. By the end of 2009 it is expected that all local authority sports and fitness sites will be managed by a local trust and overall usage figures will add to the already whopping 200 million a year who use the 680 sites which are currently members of the professional body Sporta.


Across the leisure management contractors a similar story can be found and although the percentages are lower, as most start from a higher base, they are all positive. Some sites that have seen investment, and a PFI scheme, have also seen double digit growth. Overall the average fitness membership growth figures include 1% at Serco, who also achieved a saving of 19.8% on energy consumption – that’s 2,500 tonnes of CO2; that may be difficult to relate to, but the savings equated to £750,000, which we can all understand. Leisure Connection’s average membership growth was 2% and DC Leisure’s was 5%.

Fitness Market Monitor

This sector should be congratulated not only on achieving but also on sharing these figures and they need to be put in context. The industry benchmarking service, the Fitness Market Monitor, will help do this, as numbers will be universal and can fuel debates based on a sound foundation. Figures can help bind the industry together and grow, improving engagement. Like radar or the microscope, the Fitness Market Monitor will allow us to see things previously invisible to the industry and then we can tell the world the good news.

Fitness Market Monitor Delayed


The proposed Fitness Market Monitor will provide the industry with its first real time data providing strategic guidance to enable operators and investors the confidence to make bold decisions based on evidence of performance in the context of similar operations, sectors and the industry as a whole. We all have a vested interest in seeing the sector maximise its potential growth and opportunity.

The good news is that we have 700 sites signed up to provide us with the following seven core metrics each month: live members, leavers, new members, total income, joining fees/admin fees, membership subscriptions, pay as you go/guest fees. Full details are in the attached client document. 

However we need 1,000 sites before we can start in order to provide meaningful, robust and representative industry trends. We have therefore decided to continue to sign operators up to the summer of 2009 with a view to commencing the monitor in September 2009. 

In the meantime we urge you and your colleagues to embrace this benchmarking service which will be beneficial to the whole industry. For details please visit market monitor

National Audit of Fitness Consumers 2008

Who Are UK Fitness Consumers?

The key conclusion from the recent National Audit of Fitness Consumers is that operators are attracting members from a range of social groups and, perhaps not surprisingly, public fitness facilities attract more of their membership from a wider social range.

The Leisure Database Company sponsored by Experian®, the global information solutions company, has collated member data across the health and fitness industry to benchmark participation. Using Experian's award winning people classification system, Mosaic, TLDC has analysed the types of people regularly using fitness gyms across the UK. A free customer profile was provided to all gyms that supplied their member data for the audit.


In total, TLDC received live fitness member data from 856 UK gyms. A Mosaic profile was then produced to identify who is and, by implication, who isn’t participating in fitness.
The most prominent Mosaic type amongst gym users was ‘Original Suburbs’. This type is generally made up of young professionals and families with school age children. Typically, they are aged 35-44, live in semi-detached houses in suburban areas and have high incomes.

Not surprisingly, there are significant differences between the types of people that use private gyms compared to those using public sector gyms.  


Private Health Club Members

‘City Adventurers’ is the most prominent Mosaic type, accounting for the largest proportion of private health club members. This type generates 5% of members, whilst only representing 1.4% of the UK population as a whole. ‘City Adventurers’ tend to be young high flyers living in city centre locations and earning high salaries. Typically these people are aged 25-34 years, are in good health and live in city flats. The majority also have degree level qualifications.

Public Sector Gym Members

In contrast to the prominent health clubs member, the dominant type amongst public sector gym members is ‘Industrial Grit’. This type accounts for 4% of all public gym members. They are characterised as families living in older terraced housing on low to modest incomes and are regular TV watchers and football match supporters.

Public Gyms Attract Members From A Closer Proximity

The National Audit of Fitness Consumers also highlights that public fitness facilities attract a higher percentage of their membership from a tighter catchment area around their centre than private health clubs. The findings show that 69% of public members live within 2 miles of their gym facility compared with 54% of private members living within 2 miles of their club. If we extend this to 3 miles, public gyms attract 81% of their members from this area, compared to 73% of members at private clubs.

Be Smart – Use Intelligence!

Smart businesses use available intelligence to understand and stay ahead of the market. The offer of free intelligence is therefore something to be grasped with both hands. TLDC will be offering a free group Mosaic profile report again in the future, so be smart and get involved. To receive the full summary report from the 2008 National Audit of Fitness Consumers, email enquiries@theleisuredatabase.com.


What If We Only Got Paid For Results?

Dr Paul Bedford, TLDC's retention expert, asks would operators provide a better service to members if fees were based on results?

As most operators use some form of contract to maintain members, should we, considering other business contracts are often objective orientated, ask the question what if members only had to pay fees based on the results produced? Business contracts often pay out bonuses on results as well.  How would we provide our services if this were the model we worked from?
To what lengths would we go to in supporting members and ensure adherence to programmes?

Dr Paul Bedford

Working on results payments begs the questions what levels of service would we provide and how much would those results be worth?

If you would like to discuss any aspects of membership development from targeting the most likely types of people to join your facility to retaining those who are existing members, call
Dr. Paul Bedford on 07956 311899.

Change 4 Life Campaign

TLDC Assists in Getting The Nation Moving


TLDC are contributing to getting the nation more active, the key objective from the Government’s new Physical Activity Plan announced on 11th February 2009.

The Government’s plan puts physical activity at the heart of communities and TLDC are helping individuals find out what physical activity facilities there are in their local area.  TLDC, via Active Places, is powering the majority of the local area resources database on the Change 4 Life website with their comprehensive data displaying local facilities for physical activity, ranging from local recreation grounds to leisure centres and private health clubs.

TLDC collects and maintains up-to-date information on over 30,000 sports, fitness and grass pitch facilities for Active Places, Sport England’s website – a site where members of the public can see what sports facilities are available in their neighbourhoods. This data is now being used on the Change 4 Life website, the information hub for the current £275m public health campaign.