European Health & Fitness Market Report

Continued Growth

An increasing number of Europeans are members of health and fitness clubs according to the “European Health & Fitness Market Report 2019” by EuropeActive and Deloitte

Five years ago, EuropeActive adopted their goal of 80 million members by 2025 – with about 46 million members reported at the time. While reaching this goal remains challenging today and will require further effort in the future, the European health and fitness industry is still on track to reach this target as total membership within the European Union, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine increased by 3.5% in 2018 to 62.2 million at the end of the year.

As Karsten Hollasch, Head of Consumer Business at Deloitte Germany and co-author of the report comments, “The European fitness club market continued its growth trend in 2018, but a significant potential for further growth remains as only 7.8% of Europeans own a fitness club membership. With the development and roll-out of innovative fitness concepts and the integration of new technologies, we expect membership to further increase over the next years – towards EuropeActive’s goal of 80 million members by 2025.”

Depending on the development of the US market, which reported revenues of EUR 26.6 billion (USD 30.0 billion) in 2017 according to the 2018 IHRSA Global Report, the European fitness market (EUR 27.2 billion) could again be the largest fitness market in the world. At constant foreign exchange rates, the European market size increased by 3.4% compared to 2017. At actual foreign exchange rates, year-on-year growth in Euro amounted to 1.2%, driven by negative exchange rate effects from some countries.

While the low-cost segment continues to grow in most European markets, there is also an increasing number of specialised, premium-priced “boutique” fitness clubs and growth in offerings such as functional fitness, personal training and small group training. Additionally, further digitalisation and a growing impact of fitness intermediaries increasingly shape the European fitness landscape. These are some of the main findings of the European Health and Fitness Market Report 2019, which was presented by EuropeActive and Deloitte at the European Health and Fitness Forum on April 3rd, the high-level pre-opening event of FIBO in Cologne.

McFIT GLOBAL GROUP and Basic-Fit extend their lead in the membership ranking

Among the leading operators, the German discount chain McFIT GLOBAL GROUP retained its top position in terms of membership with 1.95 million members across 288 clubs, which operate under the brands “McFIT” (253 clubs), “JOHN REED” (20 clubs) and “High5” (15 clubs). The company attributes the increase of 220,000 members over the previous year primarily to strong campaigns as well as the introduction of live classes in January 2018 and expansion of its product offering and target audience.

Ranking second is the Netherlands-based low-cost chain Basic-Fit (1.84 million members), which generated by far the highest organic membership growth of all operators with 316,000 additional members. This was largely due to the opening of 92 clubs in France. The British low-cost operator Pure Gym ranks third after increasing its membership by 85,000 to 1.01 million in 2018, becoming the third European fitness operator to reach 1 million members.

With the three market leaders, UK-based The Gym Group (fourth), the German operators clever fit (fifth) and FitX (sixth) as well as the Danish market leader Fitness World (ninth), seven of the top 10 operators by membership can be considered low-cost operators. In addition, two other top 10 operators – SATS Group and Migros Group – have a low-cost brand in their portfolios.

David Lloyd Leisure remains European revenue leader

While five low-cost operators (McFIT Group, Basic-Fit, Pure Gym, Fitness World and clever fit) also rank among the top 10 in terms of revenue, the UK-based premium operator David Lloyd Leisure (DLL) again tops the ranking with revenues of €545 million (+€62 million). DLL further expanded its international presence in 2018 through the acquisition of the City Green Sports and Health Club in France near Lake Geneva, as well as the acquisition of Health City’s Bad Homburg Club in Germany. At the end of 2018, DLL operated 114 clubs in eight countries – including 99 clubs in the UK – with a total of 609,000 members, which places the company seventh in the European membership ranking.

However, revenue growth among the leading operators was primarily driven by low-cost operators. Thus, the Dutch operator Basic-Fit had the highest revenue growth – both in absolute (+€76 million) and relative (+23.3%) terms – and moved from sixth to second place in the European revenue ranking with total revenues of EUR 402 million. In addition, McFIT GLOBAL GROUP moved from fifth to fourth place in the ranking following a 7.6% increase in revenues, while fellow low-cost operators PureGym (+12.8%), Fitness World (+19.2%) and clever fit (+22.0%) solidified their top-10 rankings with double-digit growth rates.

By comparison, premium operators such as the Switzerland-based Migros Group (-1.2%), the Nordic market leader SATS Group (+0.3%), and the UK-based companies Nuffield Health (+2.9%) and Virgin Active (-4.9%) displayed only slight increases or even slight decreases in revenue. This was also affected by negative exchange rate effects in Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Mergers and acquisitions reach record high

SATS Group, L’Appart Fitness, Keep Cool and SportCity/Fit For Free are just some fitness club operators involved in mergers and acquisitions in the European health and fitness market over the last calendar year. In fact, 24 major M&A deals were recorded in 2018, the highest number since the European Health and Fitness Market Report has been published and an increase of four transactions compared to the previous year.

“The consistently high number of mergers and acquisitions underlines the notion that health and fitness remains a highly attractive sector for strategic and financial investors alike”,analyses Karsten Hollasch. “By supporting the innovativeness and expansion of fitness operators, these investors help the health and fitness industry to achieve further growth.”

Regarding investor types, 18 of the 24 transactions represented a sale to a strategic investor, i.e. another market participant. In addition, five businesses were sold to financial investors, indicating the interest of financial investors in the fitness industry, while one company was sold to a private investor.

The large number of transactions from founders to strategic investors indicates an increasing market consolidation. However, consolidation in the operator market remains low compared to the commercial fitness equipment market, where the four leading companies – Life Fitness, Technogym, Johnson Health Tech and Precor – account for an estimated 75% of the global and 86% of the European commercial equipment market.

Germany remains the largest European fitness market

With a membership growth of 4.5% to 11.1 million members, Germany strengthened its position as the country with the highest membership ahead of the UK (9.9 million), France (6.0 million), Italy (5.5 million) and Spain (5.3 million). At the same time, Germany ranked first in terms of market size, with total revenues of 5.3 billion according to research conducted by DSSV, DHfPG and Deloitte. However, this was partly due to negative exchange rate effects in the United Kingdom, as the UK market grew by 4.3% at constant currency compared to a 2.5% growth in the German fitness industry.

Together, the top five countries represent nearly two thirds of the entire European market in terms of both memberships and revenues. With penetration rates (ratio of the number of fitness club members to the total population) of about 9-15%, these countries generally offer further market growth potential and are expected to be major drivers towards the set goal of 80 million total members in Europe by 2025. While Sweden (21.6%), Norway (21.4%), Denmark (18.6%) and the Netherlands (17.1%) have the highest ratio of fitness club members relative to the total population, Ukraine (2.9%) and Turkey (2.6%) have relatively low penetration rates, which could – in combination with their large populations – indicate potential for future growth.

“Further growth in the fitness market will be driven by favourable macro-trends such as increasing health awareness, but even more importantly by innovative fitness concepts and business models that meet customer needs”, explains Karsten Hollasch. “The definition of the fitness industry as a purely stationary fitness market is over: existing fitness concepts are being augmented by digital offerings and new market participants are developing entirely new purely digital concepts.”

Thus, technological innovations such as mobile fitness applications, wearable tracking devices and online fitness as well as offline activities like outdoor group workouts provide opportunities to be physically active outside a brick-and-mortar gym and continue to gain popularity in many European markets. While these offerings might be considered as a threat by some stationary fitness club operators, many “traditional” fitness providers also see opportunities and have already started to incorporate these non-stationary concepts into their own business models.

With regard to EuropeActive’s ambitious goal of 80 million members by 2025, Herman Rutgers, board member at EuropeActive and co-author of the report, remains highly optimistic: “2018 was another year of continued growth for the sector. It was interesting to see positive developments across all market segments; value, premium as well as some mid-market operators. Additionally, we saw more small and medium-sized facilities opening closer to where people live and work, making fitness even more accessible for all. We remain confident to reach the industry goal of 80 million members by 2025.”

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Fig. 1: Top 10 European fitness markets by revenue in million EUR and share of the European market (2018)


Fig. 2: Total membership, membership growth and penetration rate of top 10 European fitness markets (2018)