Tighter belts shape health club industry

Mon Jun 21, 2010 6:01am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK, June 21 (Reuters Life! - The nearly $70-billion-dollar global health club industry is rolling with the punches of a tough economy while seizing the opportunities of globalization, a new report shows.

Big health club chains tackled far-flung markets, and value clubs drew budget-minded consumers in 2009, according to the IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association) 2010 Global Report on the state of the health club industry.

"Clubs doing well in Europe and the United States are either high end or budget clubs, because people want to cut back while still keeping gym memberships," said IHRSA spokesperson Alison O'Kane. "It's squeezing the middle market a lot."

In the United States health club chains made more money in 2009 but the number of clubs fell slightly. Club membership in Europe, led by the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands, increased by four percent.

"Europe and the United States are the most advanced markets, so the trends will start there," O'Kane said. "There are more clubs open in Europe but America has more club members on average."

Over 128,000 health clubs served 119 million members around the world in 2009. And despite the weak economy, giant chains were keen to extend their global reach.

The Curves franchise of women's gyms is already in 76 countries and expects to enter Russia, China and India by the fall of 2010. O'Kane added that Gold's Gym has several facilities in Egypt.

And Anytime Fitness, a coed chain with 1300 gyms worldwide, has recently come to a franchise agreement with Japan, which had been among the most insular of markets.   Continued...