There was a time when going to the gym was just for hardcore fitness freaks or body builders. But things have changed over the last couple of decades. Nowadays, going to the gym is a lifestyle choice for a wide range of people. Whether it's to lose weight, stay trim, tone up or improve cardiovascular fitness, the gym is a regular haunt for men and women of all ages.
According to market research by IBISWorld, the gym business generates revenue of around £2 billion every year, with over 1,500 businesses employing nearly 39,000 people. Although the big players in the market account for much of the business generated, there is room still for smaller operators, especially those offering something different.
For example, IBISWorld reports that many gym-goers are trading their memberships down to a “new breed of budget gyms, which do not require long-term contracts and charge less because they only offer basic services… as a result, established players like Fitness First and LA Fitness have suffered from falling membership numbers and been forced to sell or close gyms”.
So the lesson for independent startup gyms is to look beyond the standard model. There are also different niches to consider – for example: fitness classes such as Zumba, Pilates and yoga; mixed martial arts (MMA); spinning; powerlifting; power plates; women only; kids’ fitness. You could also offer specialist services such as sports massage, boot camps and personal training.
Before you make a firm decision on what you intend to offer, you should make sure there’s sufficient demand in your chosen location. Carry out some market research – find out what’s already being offered in the area and look for needs that aren’t being met. Consider the local demographic and the kind of health and fitness options that could prove popular.
The level of funding required for your venture will obviously depend on the specific nature of your offering, but a fully equipped gym won’t come cheap.
You’ll also need to choose your premises carefully and make sure it’s suitable and large enough for all the facilities you plan to provide. It needs to be easily accessible – bear in mind that the majority of your customers will be using your gym outside of working hours, so if it’s too far out of the way or difficult to get to they simply won’t bother or find somewhere else. And don’t forget you’ll need ample parking facilities.
If you find somewhere that fits the bill, check the property has the appropriate classification for use as a gym from the local authority; the building should be in the “Class D2” category, covering “assembly and leisure”.
You’ll also need to consider your health and safety obligations. Make sure you comply with all the necessary regulations and carry out a risk assessment. Again, your local authority can provide guidance on this.
Regardless of how vigilant you are, things can go wrong – so you’ll need sufficient business insurance. Various types of cover will be required to run a gym – including public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance and employer’s liability insurance. Consider all your insurance needs and shop around for the best deals – most insurance providers offer business packages that you can tailor according to your specific needs.