Franchising · 21 June 2016

“Fitness franchising” booming as majority of UK adults seek gym membership

Nearly half of UK adults are looking to join a new gym, providing opportunities for potential franchisees

Investing in gyms and health clubs is fast becoming the best way to tap into Britain’s consumers, as recent data has revealed that franchising in the UK fitness industry is booming.

According to research by the British Franchise Association (BFA), the rate of fitness franchising has risen sharply in the last year, contributing to the overall good health of the UK franchising sector – the BFA found that in total, 97 per cent of franchise-owned outlets made a profit in 2015.

Commenting on the findings, BFA CEO Pip Wilkins said: “The nation’s health and fitness is regularly in the news and that’s helping to drive demand for gyms and health clubs. There is a wide range of business opportunities for different budgets. More choice in a growing marketplace means entrepreneurs are taking notice.”

A recent BFA survey demonstrated that almost half of UK adults are looking to join a new gym, whilst 34 per cent aren’t members of a gym but would like to join one, and a remaining 12 per cent are members but are looking elsewhere. Membership fees, along with customer service were considered the most important factors influencing people’s joining decisions.

More affordable gyms and health clubs led by franchises are now starting to dominate the market, and overall demand has risen six per cent in the last 12 months as a result.

Commenting on the industry’s progress in the UK, general manager at Anytime Fitness – one of the world’s most successful fitness franchises having reached over 3,000 locations in 29 countries within 13 years – Brett Edwards said: “Investing in a health and fitness franchise is one of the smartest business moves you could make in 2016.

“Franchising is a proven route to growth with a brand that people trust and recognise. There’s no agonising about how to brand your business, all you need to bring is enthusiasm and a determination to deliver.”

In an interview in January, Anytime Fitness CEO Chuck Runyon told Business Advice that maintaining standards of personal service across outlets was key to the success of his fitness franchise. Runyon added: “Ultimately, members join a club because they want results, and today’s landscape gives them so many choices.

“By having fewer members, we’re able to get to know our existing ones better, providing that personal education and personalized programmes to help our members achieve results.”

The growing popularity of health and fitness amongst the UK population has resulted in a more diverse range of fitness-related startups, providing more and more opportunities fro franchisees.

Founder at Move Pop Up Gym – a startup which hosts fitness classes in breathtaking locations –AJ O’Neill warned entrepreneurs about the importance of having a clear vision for your business before starting out in the sector. “I had lots of ideas which I tried to combine into one business model, making it difficult to focus,” O’Neill told Business Advice earlier this year.

“You need to be clear about what you want to achieve and a plan to get there beyond the first step,” he added.

A 14 per cent surge in the number of new businesses set up in 2015 saw the franchising sector add a record £15.1bn to the UK economy. In January, the BFA revealed that last year a total of 44,000 franchise-owned companies operated in the UK, employing 621,000 workers.

Read the latest edition from our A-Z guide to franchising on “engagement” – communicating clear brand vision and values, here.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.


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