How the pandemic has increased the importance of all kinds of wellness for consumers has been much discussed. For the sake of proving the case of “wellness expansion,” let’s just take fitness—one of the sectors hit the hardest by the pandemic. The major fitness researcher IHRSA reported this summer that during the pandemic, 22% of all fitness facilities globally closed permanently–(and they document the market declines for every global region).
But in large cities around the world, activity is coming back to pre-pandemic levels—earlier than most analysts anticipated. Nothing illustrates the point better than the renewed appetite of investors for the sector.
A few examples: SmartFit, the largest Latin American gym brand, just raised $450 million in Brazil, while F45Training (a US-based fitness group with 1,750 global studios) just listed at a $1.45 billion valuation. Meanwhile, PureGym (the UK’s biggest gym chain), which recently hit 94% of its 2019 membership levels, is considering an IPO this year. Fitness boutiques seem to be doing equally well, with many reporting levels of retention and frequency rates on a sharp increase.
The question is: Is this a transient phenomenon linked to the rebound or a more structural phenomenon? Nobody knows yet, but the markets are clearly betting that consumers will return to the gym after the pandemic.