Europe's largest gym chain, Basic-Fit, has provided the European fitness sector with some optimism, after recording high membership growth in the months following lockdown.
Reporting its first-half year results for 2020, the operator said it had seen higher membership growth in June and July than it did in 2019, despite continued lockdown-related club closures in some of the markets in which it operates – including the Netherlands.
"The number of joiners in July was around 70 per cent higher than in same month last year – while the number of leavers did not increase," said CEO, Rene Moos.
"During the closure of the clubs, we experienced great loyalty from our members – overall only 9 per cent left, which is even less than the percentage of leavers in prior years in the same period.
"The number of leavers in these two months was similar to the level last year.
With these positive developments, we expect our membership base to have recovered from the club closures by September."
According to Basic-Fit's figures, the total number of memberships during the first half of 2020 increased year on year, from 2 million to 2.17 million.
During the period, Basic-Fit opened 47 new clubs, growing the number of clubs in its portfolio to 831 clubs.
Moos did admit, however, that financial results had been "severely impacted" by COVID-19-related closures.
Year-on-year revenue decreased by 24 per cent (from to €240m to €183m) – despite the new openings – and the chain reported underlying EBITDA of €62.2m for the first six months of the year, down from €68.3m in 2019.
"The past half year was the toughest period in the history of the industry," Moos added.
"The COVID-19-related club closures impacted our members, employees, partners, landlords and banks.
"The last decade we have been building the largest and fastest-growing fitness chain in Europe together and I'm proud of how we, together, have been handling this crisis.
"The number of visits is approaching pre-COVID-19 levels with 2.2 million visits per week. The number of joiners in June and July has been significantly above the level of joiners in the same months last year."
According to Moos, the tough market conditions, however, will not affect Basic-Fit's growth in the long-term.
"We have restarted the rollout of new clubs," he said.
"If the current positive membership development trends continue and if there are no further large-scale lockdowns, we expect to open around 100 clubs in 2020.
"Longer term, the market fundamentals, our strategy and targets have not changed and we continue to expect to reach the 1,250 clubs mark in 2022."