Fewer providers and members because of Corona – but a positive trend: first comprehensive study on the key data of the Swiss fitness industry
Closures of fitness centers, restrictions on training – the corona pandemic has hit the Swiss health and fitness industry hard. After a good two years of crisis, both the number of providers and the number of members fell. But the trend is positive and the industry as a whole is looking to the future with confidence. That is the conclusion of the first comprehensive study on the key data of the Swiss fitness industry, presented by the industry association swiss active – CI Fitness Switzerland.
Together with the Deutsche Hochschule für Prävention und Gesundheitsmanagement (DHfPG), swiss active – CI Fitness Switzerland has collected the key data of the Swiss fitness industry for the first time. The result is a representative quantitative study that creates market transparency. The deadline was December 31, 2021. At that time, the health and fitness centers in Switzerland were open in compliance with certain corona regulations, such as the obligation to have a certificate. In order to show the development of the industry during the entire pandemic period, comparative values from the end of December 2020 and also the pre-crisis value from the end of December 2019 were used.
The result leaves no doubt: The Corona crisis has hit the health and fitness industry in Switzerland hard. All key figures such as membership numbers, check-ins or center development have declined in the past two years. For example, the number of operators and providers fell by a good 6% to almost 1,300 from the end of 2019 to the end of 2021. The providers of individual courses and methods such as Pilates, yoga or aerobics were hardest hit by the decline. Their number fell from 806 to 751, down 6.8%. The number of small fitness centers was reduced by only 5 companies, but that already accounts for 4.2%. Chain operators suffered less, the number of centers operated by chains fell by only 4 to 432 locations, which accounts for less than 1%.
18% fewer members; the small, independent fitness centers suffered the most
In the same period, the industry lost almost 18% of its members. Since there is no segment data for the end of 2019, it can only be determined by comparing the end of 2020 to the end of 2021 where the decline in members was greatest. With a minus of 15.7%, the small, independent centers suffered the most during the crisis. But the chains as well as the course and method providers also lost a lot of popularity with almost 12% each.
What is positive for the industry is that from the end of 2021 to the end of the first quarter of 2022, there was a slight recovery in membership numbers with an increase of 2.2%. Those who suffered the most during the crisis – the small, independent centers – now appear to be benefiting the most from the trend reversal. Their membership increased by 6.3% over the three months. The chains also benefited above average with 3.8%, while the course and method providers with a plus of 0.7% are not really reporting a recovery.
30% of providers report economic problems
In line with this, in the survey period from mid-March to May 23, 30% of providers rated their economic situation as «rather poor». However, there are no figures per segment. 60% of providers see themselves as economically on course (location is «good» or «rather good»). 86.7% assume that the economic situation will improve in the next 12 months. There are also no segment figures for the decline in sales as a result of Corona: Overall, however, the industry made 18.9% less in the first Corona year 2020 (after a positive start in the first quarter). In 2021, the drop in sales was still 8.8%.
At the end of 2021, 11.9% of the Swiss population were members of a fitness industry provider. Their average age was 40 years. This rather low average age is due in particular to terminations/lack of contract renewal among the older member groups, who often had to struggle with fears due to the Corona crisis and stayed away from training in the centers. However, Corona has had a negative impact on training frequency in all age groups. After the restrictions were lifted, training was more frequent again.
«The fitness industry plays an important role in health prevention,» says Roger Erni, Managing Director of swiss active – CI Fitness Switzerland. «Especially in the Corona period, the authorities also recognized this. That’s why we’re pleased that, after difficult times, the industry can once again look to the future with more optimism than it already has.»
«Important key figures are developing positively again – a clear indication that people want to train again! However, the older members in particular need support from the operators of the fitness centers in order to reduce existing safety concerns and to get back into training from a motivational point of view. If this succeeds, there will be a win-win situation for the industry as such and for the health of the members,» says Prof. Dr. Sarah Kobel, Head of Market Research at the Deutsche Hochschule für Prävention und Gesundheitsmanagement (DHfPG).
The entire key data study on the Swiss fitness industry 2022 is available on request from swiss active from September 7th, 2022.