Fitness Franchises in the UK – Should You Buy a Gym Franchise?

May 15, 2018

Here’s what goes into the making of successful Fitness Franchises.

Franchising – a novelty not too long ago – has really come of age in the last few years. From being a mere cost-cutting tactic for retail businesses to being one of the most widely employed business models, this growth has, in its wake, created an industry in itself – an industry that generates billions of pounds in revenue, employs hundreds of thousands of people and helps unlock the entrepreneurial potential of hardworking individuals. It’s no wonder then that the future of franchising in the UK looks very promising.

While there are dozens of business sectors that offer attractive franchising opportunities, the fitness sector has consistently been one of the most popular franchise businesses in the UK. In this post, we will try to overview how gym franchises work, what makes them so popular and what you should know before you decide to jump on board.

The Demand – It’s Certainly There!

The seemingly simple interplay between supply and demand is what allows businesses to become and stay profitable. The most prominent sign of affirmation for fitness franchises in the UK comes in the form of an obvious level of demand.

Some key numbers, as published in the 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report, tell us that:

  • The total number of gym memberships in the UK stands at 7 million, more than half of which are active.
  • The total revenue generated by 6,000+ fitness facilities in the UK is at an all-time high – £4.7 billion.
  • The market penetration, despite the huge turnover, still remains at around 15%, indicating positive conditions for rapid growth.
  • The overall spending by UK gymgoers saw an increase by 44% from 2016 to 2017.

In times when one in four adults in the UK is obese, making us the most obese country in Western Europe, the need for more gyms and fitness clubs is more acute than ever. What’s more encouraging, however, is the fact that more and more people are waking up to the hazards of unhealthy lifestyle, suggesting a great period of growth for fitness franchises.

Also Read: Our series of free franchising guides for UK franchises.

How Much Does It Cost?

It all depends on the kind of franchise you are looking to buy. If you are going after a well-established and popular brand, you will certainly need to spend a lot of money to not only buy the franchise but also to operate it.

Most fitness franchises in the UK operate in the ‘mid-level’ range when it comes to upfront fees and deposits. A franchise unit for a fairly popular gym franchise will typically cost upwards of £25,000 in Franchise Fees. You can find some really low-cost fitness franchise opportunities too, but the perks and business prospects that come with these are usually limited in scope.

This doesn’t always reflect some significant costs such as the rent for the location, equipment, staff salaries and other operational costs. As a part of operating a service-oriented franchise, you will also need to spend more money to insure your franchise against mishaps and other unfortunate possibilities.

All things considered, it’s safe to say that you will need an initial investment of £100,000 or more to get a new fitness franchise up and running. When you buy a fitness franchise from an established franchisor, you usually get an all-inclusive package with the help of which your franchise can become operational right away.

Costs to Consider

  • Franchise licensing fees
  • Equipment
  • Marketing
  • Rent
  • Staff salaries
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Recurring royalties to the franchisor
  • Customer service
  • Other operating expenses

How Do Fitness Franchises Really Make Money?

The most sizeable share of the revenue that fitness franchises generate comes through regular memberships. As we have already seen, the number of people looking to buy new gym memberships is on the rise in the UK, meaning that you – as a prospective fitness franchise owner – have a lot of potential business opportunities to make the most of.

The gym membership fees are decided in advance by the franchisor, with franchisees getting little to no say in the matter. Reflecting the brand value, market demand, facilities provided and of course, the location, these fees can range from £15 per month for a no-frills, basic membership to £100+ for an exclusive membership in a state-of-the-art fitness club complete with a sauna, a swimming pool, an eatery and other facilities.

It’s worth noting here that fitness clubs and gyms have to continually grapple with poor customer retention. It’s a well-known fact that new users – not just in the UK, but around the world –  tend to drop the idea of working out within a matter of months, if not weeks. Attractive offers, low deposits, no joining fees and mandatory yearly ‘lock-in’ sign-ups are some ways in which fitness franchises can deal with this problem.

The Importance of Location

The importance of having an easily accessible, attractive and prime location cannot be overstated for a ‘footfall’ heavy industry like fitness. You want more and more people to notice and visit your business to drive the revenue higher. This is one of the reasons why gyms that are located in premium corner locations in malls and shopping centres tend to do better.

If you can’t afford such a location, it’s still okay, given that you don’t have to face stiff competition. Unlike retail franchises and restaurants, fitness franchises find it very difficult to co-exist and share the territory. So, if you get your location right, you can give your business a great chance of succeeding.

Hire Responsibly

Regardless of the industry sector you operate in, it’s important to have the right kind of people working for you. This becomes even more evident in a service-oriented business like running a fitness franchise. Having experienced, licensed and responsible trainers on board will not only boost the credentials of your gym, but it will also lead to organic, passive advertising that can help your business immensely in the long run.

Marketing – How Vital Is It, Really?

Very few businesses can hope to make it big in this day and age without drawing up effective marketing strategies. The competition is never going to get thinner, meaning that you will have to incessantly keep fighting on this front – even when you are successful. This, many would argue, is common knowledge – but the numbers tell a different story. An independent survey of small businesses in the UK revealed in 2017 that nearly 50% of the participating business owners thought their marketing strategies to be below par. 60% of the surveyed small businesses were found to have no social media presence. If you don’t want your fitness franchise to go down this road, you’ll probably need to employ every trick in the book to get ahead of your competitors.

When you buy a fitness franchise from a reputed franchisor, you will most likely get access to their marketing team, strategies and material. This often involves ongoing marketing support for a recurring fee. Additionally, you can engage marketing experts to enhance your social media presence and target the local customer base more precisely. All these things will cost you money, but – when done right – it can all definitely be worth it.

Innovation Can Open Many Doors for Your Fitness Franchise!

We have already seen that there is a significant level of demand in the UK for fitness franchises. If, however, you want to operate in a location that already seems to be exhausted with gyms and fitness clubs, you will need to innovate and find niches that haven’t yet been tapped.

The good news is, there’s no dearth of such niche ideas as far as the fitness industry is concerned. Think yoga clubs, gyms for new mums, fitness clubs for the elderly, specialty training centres for kids – the opportunities are many and exciting.

It’s important – and we can’t stress this enough – to choose your franchise very, very carefully to minimise the risks.

Do You Have What It Takes to Run a Fitness Franchise?

Ask yourself a few questions before you decide that you really want to buy a gym franchise.

Are You a Fitness Enthusiast?

If you are a fitness enthusiast, love following a healthy lifestyle and enjoy your time at the gym, you will find it much easier to stay connected with your business at a personal level. This is not a prerequisite, but it certainly helps to have this point in your favour.

Do You Possess Good Communication Skills?

Running a fitness franchise will require you to keep in touch with a number of people on an everyday basis – customers, employees, suppliers and more. So, it’s very important that you possess good ‘people skills’ and know how to maintain effective, persuasive communication.

Can You Handle the Stress?

This is an important but often overlooked point. You will need to maintain a flexible balance between your personal life and your work life to be able to draw any satisfaction from your work. Running a fitness franchise is not a mean feat. So, ask yourself if you can work extra hard without letting the long hours get to you.

Are You Good at Managing Finances?

From counting the costs before you get into the business to always keeping a track of the business incomings and outgoings, you need to be extremely good at managing finances – even when you have employees and computers to handle the matters!

Tip:

Read through our free ‘Should You Run a Franchise?’ guide to learn more about what it really takes to run a franchise business successfully.  

Top Fitness Franchises in the UK

Let’s take a look at some of the top fitness franchises in the UK to understand how their features compare. *

Anytime Fitness

  • Initial Investment: £170,000
  • 4,000+ global franchise units in operation
  • Thorough training
  • Monthly revenue
  • 24 x 7
  • Fixed fees

énergie Fitness

  • Initial Investment: £95,000 (inclusive of the Franchise Fee)
  • 100+ UK franchises in operation
  • 15 years of UK specific experience
  • Part time franchise units available
  • Experienced trainers
  • High brand value

Snap Fitness

  • Franchise Fee: £30,000 (excluding VAT)
  • Initial Investment: £170,000 (inclusive of the Franchise Fee)
  • 1,300+ members per UK franchise (on an average)
  • 2,000+ franchise units in operation around the world
  • Financing assistance available
  • 24 x 7

Curves

  • Initial Investment: £40,355
  • 6,000+ clubs around the world
  • Fitness clubs for women
  • Low cost fitness franchise opportunities

* Fees & features mentioned on this page are merely indicative and subject to change.

The Takeaways

  • Know whether franchising is for you.
  • Make sure you choose the right franchise.
  • Conduct thorough market research.
  • Explore niche fitness franchise opportunities.
  • Always stay on top of the numbers.