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North West of England has fourth highest concentration of gyms in UK

11th June 2019, 2:04 pm

The North West of England has the fourth highest concentration of gyms in the UK, according to the latest sector research by real estate advisors Colliers International.

In its review of the UK Health & Fitness Market, Colliers identified that the North West had 40 gyms per one million households, placing the region fourth in a table of 11 regions nationwide and behind Greater London, the South East and West Midlands with 85, 42 and 41 gyms per one million households respectively.

Colliers’ research also showed that the dominant gym brand in the North West was PureGym, which operates 28 sites across the region.

The convenience of being able to shop and workout in a single location was driving the number of gyms opening on the high street.

Colliers reported that gyms opening in high street locations across the UK rose from 317 to 365 between 2017 and 2019, representing a 15 per cent increase in health and fitness facilities in this type of location.

Of those brands increasing their high street presence the fastest were budget gym operators The Gym, Anytime Fitness and PureGym – individually growing their portfolio sizes by 75 per cent, 32 per cent and 28 per cent respectively over the two-year period.

These types of low-cost operators have exploded on to the UK fitness scene, arriving in a variety of locations and occupying a diverse mix of premises, including former retail units, basement offices and purpose-built spaces in mixed-use developments, as well as on business, retail, and leisure parks.

Colliers also highlighted the rising popularity of class-based fitness and group exercise with pay-per-class studio gym concepts now accounting for more than 42 per cent of all gyms via specialist providers such as Barry’s Bootcamp in Manchester and Barrecore in Hale and Alderley Edge.

Colin Siebert, director, licensed and leisure at the Manchester office of Colliers, said: “The North West gym market is robust and healthy in terms of ongoing demand from operators such as Xercise4Less seeking space in city centres and elsewhere.

“We are also witnessing a rising requirement for organised fitness classes as much as standalone gyms because providers appreciate that the experience is important to not only retain customers but also to attract new participants.”

Ross Kirton, director at Colliers International and head of UK leisure agency: “In theory, the strength of the UK’s gym market could provide the perfect ‘white knight’ to the ailing high street retail sector. However, landlords and occupiers alike must ensure that expansion is undertaken in a sustainable way that matches the right gym model with the right location and the right demographic to avoid oversupply.”

While budget gym operators continue to pursue aggressive expansion plans on the high street, no doubt fuelled by the increasing availability of ex-retail units, other retailers are also trying to take advantage of the successful partnership emerging between fitness and retail.

These include the quasi-retail, free class offers successfully hosted by workout clothing brands Sweaty Betty and Lululemon, and the virtual studio classes hosted by Peloton.

“If planned correctly, gyms – especially the studio variety with small floorplates – could be one offer which helps fill the voids left by high street retail or restaurant store closures,” Kirton continues. “With the ability to drive footfall to otherwise struggling retail locations, gyms now occupy a stronger position than ever in the UK’s alternative leisure market.”

Build it and they will come

Colliers’ research also analysed the monthly gym spend vs the number of gyms in several key locations across the UK. The findings revealed a strong correlation between the two variables, suggesting people have a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality towards gyms in their local area.

Mark Charlton, Head of Research & Forecasting at Colliers International, said: “This confirms the importance of proximity and accessibility of gyms in relation to resident populations.”

In a recent survey by Colliers of gym goers, almost half of those surveyed said the thing they liked most about their gym was that it was close to home while another 75% were willing to spend more on monthly rent or mortgage payments to be near their gym of choice.

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