Franchising has become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to the systems in place which offer guidance and support to owners.
With a fitness franchise, the business skeleton is already in place, which leaves franchisees free to focus on growing their business.
For those with entrepreneurial flair, the scalability makes franchising an attractive proposition, while the existance of the head office business gives security.
Chief international development officer at Xponential Fitness, John Kersh, says lower risk and proven systems will drive further franchising growth worldwide. “Part of the popularity of franchising is the ability to leverage corporate support, brand equity, resources, and an operating ‘playbook’, so some of the hard work is minimised,” he says. “The future belongs to owners who are committed to doing the work needed to attract and retain members.”
However, Kersh warns that with more action in the market it will become increasingly competitive, given the growth of successful franchisors and new players entering the sector. “Being a successful franchisor requires immense effort with a laser focus on supporting franchisees to build sustainable unit-level performance,” he says.
“As consumer demand in key categories increases, the franchising space will become even more competitive, with the stronger franchisors acquiring competitors to achieve the largest market share and the weaker ones struggling.
“With more competition, franchisees will expect a high degree of support and resources which will allow the most successful franchisors to thrive.”
Kersh acknowledges there will always be a place for excellent, disciplined independent operators, who are well-connected to their communities, but believes well-run franchised operations have the advantage – thanks to access to proven systems and best-practice, as well as dedicated support from their franchisor.
Elaine Jobson, CEO of Jetts Fitness says the impact of the pandemic is driving the popularity of franchising, saying. “Many people had a rethink about their careers in the lockdowns and decided they wanted to do something they love, and a lot of people love fitness,” she says.
“We’re also seeing interest from outside the fitness industry and although the fitness industry was heavily impacted by the lockdowns, our recovery was rapid which has been giving people confidence in our industry’s resilience.”
Jobson believes there are ample opportunities, saying: “Many poorly-run franchise businesses closed during the last few years, meaning these territories can be re-sold with a better product and a more skilful and motivated management team in place.”
Chief development officer of Anytime Fitness UK, Ben Dixon, says the emergence of new franchise brands shows the level of interest in the health and fitness industry and he predicts interest from entrepreneurs in the industry will continue to drive growth in franchising so it becomes an integral part of the industry.
“With close links to the local area and an understanding of local markets and nuances, franchise operators can be incredibly agile when adapting to the changing needs of consumers,” he says.
Like other franchisors, Anytime Fitness is also experiencing an increased level of enquiries from prospective gym owners. “Although some people are turning their passions into a business, what’s really promising is that we’re seeing enquiries from people with a broad range of backgrounds, some of whom don’t have direct experience of working in the fitness industry,” says Dixon.
Anytime clubs are still showing strong membership numbers, so Dixon believes the franchise market will be resilient in the face of any economic turmoil that occurs, with people seeing their health as an important investment.
Founder of German-based chain, Fit+, Torsten Boorberg, is also experiencing high demand in Europe and Asia. He believes franchising’s popularity is down to the way it spreads the load across many shoulders.
“With our system, it is easy to build multiple businesses quickly and sustainably,” he says.
“We deliver the locations, financing, equipment, software and marketing and the entrepreneur focuses on business and sales. The independence of time, place and personnel makes our system attractive.”
Boorberg predicts the franchising market will continue to grow at a fast pace, allowing individual health club operators to slip under the umbrella of the franchise systems and operate their locations more efficiently.
Dixon thinks franchised health clubs taking up more of the market will lead the industry down a more service-orientated and community-driven route and result in higher standards: “Franchising is a combination of committed fitness providers who know their market and the support, resources and reach of the main franchiser business,” he says. “Moving towards a point where there are more franchised health clubs in the market would bring more consistency and higher standards to the industry”.