European fitness operators will face increased consolidation, accelerated digitalisation and the new reality of creating hybrid models due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a large-scale report by Deloitte.
Published today at the European Health & Fitness Forum (EHFF), the Covid-19 Impact Study
, examined the pandemic's short- and longer-term impacts on European fitness club operators.
Deloitte gathered information from European multi-site gym operators regarding various elements of their business and used the data as a basis for an assessment of the impact of the pandemic.
The report's findings suggest that, as well as the three main impacts (digitalisation, consolidation and hybrid models), the sector is also switching its focus to refinancing and building stronger balance sheets, as well as rethinking overall business strategies.
As for economics, the report – commissioned by EuropeActive – states that it is "impossible" to make accurate, long-term predictions, partly due to infections currently being on the rise across the Continent and with further lockdowns possible.
However, there is an expectation among multi-site operators that they will bounce back to pre-COVID levels 'by end of 2021'.
This is reflected in the overall confidence of major European club operators, who consider their existence to be "only partially endangered", assuming there are no further forced club closures.
None of the operators questioned for the report stated that their existence was – or will be – either "severely" or "highly threatened" over the next five years (until 2025).
“This research supports some optimism for the recovery and future of our sector which was confirmed by the positive indications from investors and analysts who committed to our larger European operators," said Herman Rutgers, the report's co-editor and EuropeActive project leader.
"It is clear that fitness must be considered as a strategic part of the solution, and not as a problem.
"We already have good data from over 20 million visits to health clubs that they are safe places to go to, with extremely low levels of traceable COVID-19 infection.”
Andreas Paulsen, executive director of EuropeActive, added: "For all parts of the ecosystem of the European fitness and physical activity sector, the past months since the beginning of 2020 have been unprecedented.
"Early on during the lockdown some industry leaders expressed that our sector was changing for good.
"Although 2020 has been incredibly demanding for our industry – indeed for most parts of society – we also saw our sector coming together like never before, in a united fashion through EuropeActive and our national association partners, to deliberate on solutions for our sector’s future, to collegially share best-practice, and to run campaigns like the #BeActive Hour."
As well as charting the long-term impacts of the pandemic, the Deloitte report offers insights into consumer confidence, membership shortfalls and the direct impact of closures on operators.
It also includes detailed overviews on individual countries and a number of selected operator case studies.
The Covid-19 Impact Study
can be purchased from the EuropeActive Knowledge Centre (click here)