Germany’s fitness studios face a tour de force. They practiced one-fifth of their members during Corona times, and according to industry data, their sales even dropped by a third within two years.
At the Fibo fitness fair in Cologne, which for the first time since 2019 will be open to the public from Thursday to Sunday, the industry wants to send a signal of departure. I am firmly convinced that we will overcome this crisis and that there will not be a large number of insolvencies, says Florian Kndgen, Deputy CEO of DSSV industry association. With DIFG, another industry organization is hoping for better times.
DSSV Deputy Chairman Kndgen justifies his optimism with encouraging feedback from various companies in his association. The start of the year was still reluctant due to strict access restrictions (2G plus), and the important new business in January was weak, he says. But things went better in February and March: the access rules were relaxed and have now fortunately completely disappeared. Members come to the studios much more often than they did a few months ago. The number of new contracts is also increasing.
According to DSSV, at the turn of the year, Germany had 9,492 commercially operated fitness and health facilities, and by 2021, operators had a total turnover of 3.6 billion euros. A good third of this was government corona aid. The number of studies fell only slightly during the pandemic – despite the low tide in the cash register, the operators did not want to give up and somehow held out.
The industry is convinced that the long-term outlook is good. The health awareness among the population has increased over the past two years, and going to the gym is more important to many citizens than it was before Corona, says the association’s vice president. People have become more body conscious during the pandemic and it is playing into our hands.
Other industry representatives see it the same way. A spokeswoman for the FitX chain says that awareness of their own well-being and willingness to work to maintain it has been strengthened by the pandemic. And a spokesman for McFit believes that many people’s desire to exercise has increased after the quarantine experience. Both companies report a promising first quarter of the year.
Fitness First Germany CEO Johannes Maen is also pleased with the quarter, many members have returned to the gym and the new contract goals have started well. However, the necessary “recovery effect” is still outstanding so that the lost members can be compensated again.
Depending on the location, Kieser Training lost between 13 and 17 percent of its customers during the pandemic. In the last eight weeks, however, it has improved significantly, says operations manager Patrik Meier. We are already seeing that people are getting more problems with their musculoskeletal system, despite home exercises, online offers and fitness apps. Targeted and health-oriented strength training is the solution to prevent or actively tackle back and joint pain. Customers are happy to finally be able to train in the studio again, says Meier.
Corona put pressure on the sale of fitness equipment for the home, and online deals were also in high demand. Have some of the consumers got used to it and will not return to their studies – then the market has become smaller? Not only Kieser Training but also other fitness companies are very relaxed about such an issue and reject it. It makes a difference whether you are motivated and supported by coaches in a club and have access to the right equipment – or whether you are alone at home, according to Fitness First for example. And the McFit spokesman says: Neither parks nor home training can replace training in a fully equipped studio.
The FitX study chain has identified a change in motivation among its customers. In a member survey, more than 60 percent of respondents stated that they primarily wanted to do something for their health – the percentage was significantly higher than in previous surveys, where muscle building or weight loss was the main motivation.
In addition to DSSV, the German industry association for fitness and health (DIFG) is another industrial nozzle – the two associations have different priorities. DIFG chairman Ralph Scholz is also talking about a recovery in studies, but he still sees the industry in a critical phase. The cost ballast has increased significantly due to e.g. higher energy prices. He also warns that rising inflation could have a negative impact: If other daily expenses rise, consumers may wonder if they can still pay the monthly fee for the gym.
DSSV representative Kndgen looks at it differently: The willingness to invest in your own fitness is higher than before – so you will not start saving in the gym now.