Business of gym discounters booming in Germany

The German fitness market which is mainly made up of small and medium-sized entities (SMEs) grew strongly by 6% in the year 2007. Currently there are about 5.5 million people who are members of health clubs and gyms in Germany. Over the past four year the number of gym members grew by one million. According to a market study by the Deloitte consulting firm, in the year 2007 health clubs for the first time generated almost 3 billon Euros in turnover.

According to the study, the driving forces behind this boom are chains of gyms which operate numerous facilities and which have grown more strongly over recent years than the fitness market as a whole. The market share of such gym chains increased by 13 percent to almost 35% over the past four years as far as the number of members is concerned while their market share amounts to 13.8% with regard to the number of gyms operated given that these facilities are relatively large. The study also revealed that individual health clubs still account for the biggest share of the market even though they lost members to the gym chain operators.

Among the major gym operators McFit was particularly successful: this company increased their membership by 32% to 550.000 people. These people pay on average 16.90 Euros per month and do their workouts in one of the company’s 89 fitness facilities. But also smaller regional discounters such as Clever Fit or Day-Night-Sports succeeded in extending their facilities and membership.

„By international comparison fitness facilities at such customer-friendly prices like those in Germany are still an exception”, says Mr Karsten Hollasch from Deloitte. Therefore McFit would now like to expand to neighbouring countries in Europe and planned to become the most important gym operator with more than one million members in Europe by the year 2009.

So-called premium providers concentrating on wellness were also able to strengthen their market position. Premium providers provide their services most of the time in an elegant ambience, and these services include fitness training, sauna, swimming programmes as well as additional services such as massage or physiotherapeutic treatment.

Furthermore, these premium providers distinguish themselves by their service and training personnel which care for customers individually. The Munich based body+soul company, for instance, plans to double its number of members and facilities by the end of 2008 in the region of Munich. This south-German mega polis with its high population density, low unemployment and above-average purchasing power provides an enormous location advantage. And just like in the retail sale business location is a very decisive factor in the fitness industry too.

The situation of the fitness sector in Germany varies according to region. In the city of Hamburg, for instance, 12.5% of inhabitants are members of a gym and quite a high percentage of them is member of a premium gym. In Brandenburg or Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, on the other hand, only 2.5% of people go to gyms. Two-digit growth rates were registered in Saarland and Bremen in the year 2007.

By European comparison the German fitness market has still quite a potential for growth: while according to an annual study carried out by Deloitte on behalf of IHRSA 6.6% of all German inhabitants are members of a gym, these percentage amounts to 11.8% in England, 14.3% in Sweden and to 16.4% in the Netherlands. On average, this percentage is 7.9% percent in Europe. If Germany reached this benchmark, then there would be an additional 1 million members in German gyms which would generate an additional 550 million Euros worth of turnover. GERMAN