Many aspects of our lives have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic – from social gatherings to retail shopping. Among the business victims of the pandemic, gyms and exercise facilities have faced a large amount of financial adversity. Their services are unable to rely on an online alternative which many businesses have survived on, instead needing venues to be accessible to secure their future.
On 23rd March 2020, when the UK Government launched the first lockdown, no one could have predicted that similar restrictions would be in place nearly one year later. But while gyms have been open for some of the time since, returning to closure has been difficult. The loss of monthly subscriptions and unused investments in COVID-secure equipment has been costly. One leading manufacturer of health supplements, Pharma Nord, has explored the damage to the industry. They estimate how these businesses have been affected in the past year and calculate their potential losses, and how we expect gyms to recover when restrictions are eased.
Weighing up the costs
We can estimate the potential losses for UK gyms by understanding the number of gyms, fitness fanatics, and average subscription fees. As of December 2020, there were approximately 6,700 health and fitness clubs in the UK. There was also about 9.7 million people who were members of these gyms.
While fitness clubs can vary in price, the Money Advice Service suggests that the average membership fee is bout £40 every month. Meanwhile, gyms are given an extra boost during January. Health orientated New Year’s resolutions mean that 12 per cent of all new members join in the first month of the year alone. The third national lockdown in England means that this expected boost has been prevented.
Based on this rationale, we can estimate that gyms would typically make £388 million every month. With membership on hold, this money is being withheld from the now struggling businesses.
The price of lockdown
There have been three national lockdowns in England, with similar measures across the UK. Since the first lockdown, the British public has spent approximately five months under restrictions which closed gyms in 2020. Similarly, gyms have been closed since January 4th, following the announcement of the third national lockdown. This means that another month of revenue has already been lost. Such losses will continue until restrictions are eased.
Consequently, it can be estimated that UK gyms have lost £2.3 billion of revenue since the start of the pandemic. With a surge in membership in January, it can be suggested that another £46.6 million is lost by the 1,164,000 people who we would have expected to join in January 2021.
These numbers are large sums of money, but since the first lockdown, this equates to £354,000 of lost revenue per fitness club. Equally, the cost of location rent, maintenance staff, and the investment into PPE and COVID-secure gym equipment mean that such losses will be maximised.
Gyms are closed for now to protect the health and safety of the general population, but it must be recognised that the value of gyms should not be sacrificed. They will be needed to improve our personal health and fitness when restrictions are eased.
Saving gyms and our health
Exercise has been encouraged during the pandemic. While healthier people can experience less-extreme symptoms of the coronavirus, the effect of exercise on mental health is equally beneficial. However, for those who enjoy their weekly gym visit, the past year has been an abrupt disruption to their fitness routines.
Exercise can be completed from home to a similar quality, with some added support. While Joe Wicks has led the nation through his streamed exercise classes, running, cycling, and cross-fit exercises at home are also suitable. We can also use suitable supplements to strengthen our bones and body frame while benefitting from a healthy and balanced diet to help boost your immune system and achieve your fitness targets.
For gyms, a return to normality is long overdue. There is optimism that restrictions may be eased by summer. Until then, gym owners should continue to take advantage of government schemes that can cover some of the costs involved with owning a business. With hope, the public will flock to support gyms when they reopen, looking to support local businesses, boost their health, and experience activities that have been restricted for a majority of the year.