UK's fitness market to continue growth curve

With most U.S.-based fitness manufacturers eyeing the exponential growth expected in Europe in the next decade, the United Kingdom has become a primary target as companies make sure all their ducks are in a row with offices, staff and shipping. And rightly so, it seems.
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With most U.S.-based fitness manufacturers eyeing the exponential growth expected in Europe in the next decade, the United Kingdom has become a primary target as companies make sure all their ducks are in a row with offices, staff and shipping. And rightly so, it seems.

Recently, two studies have validated those efforts, one focusing on overall club participation and sales, and the other on the expected growth in the in-home fitness market.

Club growth and sales

Market & Business Development (MBD) has forecast that the health and fitness market in the United Kingdom will achieve sustained year-on-year growth over the next four years. Its recent research has said that while sales are expected to slow from 2004 to 2008, because of market saturation, they are then expected to grow again. According to MBD (www.mbdltd.co.uk), anticipation is for sales to reach GBP 3.8 billion (USD $6.63 billion) in 2008, a growth of 6 percent in real terms compared to 2004.

Participation revenues will experience more moderate growth over the forecast period as the private health club sector becomes more price competitive, MBD has said, with estimates at GBP 1.689 million (USD $2.95 million), a growth of 3 percent over 2004.
Already from 1999 to 2003, the UK health and fitness market is believed to have increased by as much as 36 percent in terms of revenues, now up to almost GBP 3.5 billion (USD $6.11 billion).

Working it out at home too

Years ago, it was thought that non-North Americans wouldn't jump on the in-home-fitness bandwagon like in the United States because of more constraints on space. Wrong again. According to the consumer and market research group Mintel, the British spent GBP 238 million (USD $ 415.4 million) on in-home fitness equipment in 2002, already up 37 percent over 1998 figures, and that more than half (53 percent) of adults in the UK have some sort of fitness equipment at home.

The Mintel report, titled "In-Home Fitness," also reported that Mintel (www.mintel.com) expected the amount of money spent by the British on in-home fitness equipment to rise to almost GBP 340 million (USD $593.5 million) by 2007, a growth rate of around 33 percent. A UK-based club chain has said it is in discussions to sell its own branded home fitness equipment.

While currently the most popular pieces of in-home equipment are exercise videos, books and magazines about aerobics or yoga, Mintel consumer analyst Jenny Catlin, told The (London) Times: "Exercising at home is becoming increasingly popular because people are now more aware of their health and are also changing the way they exercise. Doing exercise at home could also be seen as a quick fix for a bit of exercise in an age when time is often at a premium."

Next to videos, books and magazines, the second most popular equipment for at-home use are stomach exercisers and traditional dumbbells or hand-held weights with about one in five people owning that genre, the study said, and men predominating: 21 percent of men have dumbbells or free weights, but only 8 percent of women.

In fact, the Mintel study found that men tend to exercise at home more regularly than women, while women are more than twice as likely to buy a video, book or magazine. More than one in three adults told Mintel, he or she feels that it is important to keep in shape by eating properly and doing exercise. And only one in 10 says that they do little or no exercise.

"We have seen a shift away from the 'perfect' body to an 'attainable' one," said Mintel's Catlin. "More tapes are being presented by 'ordinary' soap opera actors or reality TV stars."

Presented in the study are topics such as market size, distribution, consumer interests, industry forecasts and supply structure. According to the chapter on "The Supply Structure," 2003 companies and brands are: Bolton Stirland, Bodypower Sports, CSA Fitness, Forza Fitness, Icon Health & Fitness, Newitts & Co., Technogym UK and York Barbell (UK) Ltd.

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