Have you noticed the boom in fitness chains? If you’re interested in buying a franchise and have wondered whether a fitness franchise could be your next entrepreneurial step, you’re not alone in sensing the opportunity.
In the U.S. fitness industry, club memberships grew 37% in the past decade to 62.5 million. Roughly one in five Americans now have at least one gym membership, having spent $32.3 billion to get fit in 2018.
Growth isn’t slowing, either. IHRSA forecasts the industry will grow from 183 million memberships today to 230 million worldwide by 2030. Much of that growth is in franchise chains: the Association of Fitness Studios named franchising the top 2019 industry trend.
Many of those franchises are highly specialized, too. While there are still big, warehouse-sized gyms with a wide variety of offerings, the fastest-growing fitness franchises appeal to patrons who want a specific type of workout.
What are the top niches in fitness franchising? Working with hundreds of franchise consultants over many years, I’ve had a chance to get a big-picture view of how the sector is evolving. Here are my picks:
Some people just want to do a single type of workout with others who share their passion. Indoor cycling/spin, ballet-inspired barre workouts, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), martial arts and yoga are just a few of many fast-growing franchised boutique fitness studio types.
Boutique fitness studios are a great opportunity for entrepreneurs who don’t have the funds to buy into a large-format fitness chain. Startup costs can range from just $50,000 to around $80,000 or so to open a boutique fitness gym, versus $500,000 to $1 million and up for the bigger brand-name gyms.
Big gyms have often offered personal-training services. But now, many personal trainers are striking out on their own to offer customized workouts in their own small gyms with support from turnkey franchise concepts that help them with branding, sales and marketing. One-on-one sessions and small corporate groups are the primary customers for these small personal-trainer studios.
If you think you have to be a personal trainer to invest in a franchise of this type, you don’t; you can partner with a trainer who has the workout and nutritional knowhow to run the franchise. Providing nutritional expertise is another 2019 top trend spotlighted by the Association of Fitness Studios.
In-Home Personal Training
Personal trainers have made house calls since time immemorial for customers who want to work out in complete privacy. But now the concept is being franchised.
Franchise models here vary, from creating a network of trainers who arrive at customers’ homes in equipment-stocked mobile vans, to owning territory rights for an app that connects trainers with clients (for a fee, of course). With no facility lease to pay, in-home personal training franchises are a great entry-level opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to get into a fitness concept.
Apparently, a lot of people need a productive channel for their anger, because boxing and kickboxing franchises are proliferating. Far from the old days of simply hitting a punching bag and sparring all day, boxing now provides the inspiration for a wide variety of high-intensity workouts.
As with the other types of boutique gyms mentioned above, boxing gyms have a more compact format and are a more affordable niche for entrepreneurs looking to get started in fitness franchising.
Losing weight has always been a major goal at many gyms. Now, weight-loss clinic chains are growing fast by focusing their whole brand on lifestyle changes, diet and dropping pounds.
These weight-loss franchises take different approaches. Some tout their medically supervised, research-based nutrition plans, while others offer behavioral health sessions or hormone-balancing therapies. With diabetes screenings and other medical checkups included in some formats, the whole-person and eating-habits focus attracts obese customers who want to lose serious weight with diet changes rather than exercise.
Yes, rowing is about as old-school as exercise gets, but modern equipment has made this high-intensity, full-body workout popular again. Multiple franchise chains are riding the indoor-rowing trend, with mom-and-pop concepts popping up in major cities and quickly being supplanted by growing franchise chains.
Hundreds of rowing gyms have already popped up, so public awareness of the concept is growing fast.
Stretching And Flexibility
With sports injuries skyrocketing and athletes looking to cross-train, it’s no surprise that gyms with a focus on stretching and flexibility are growing in popularity. Several franchise chains are already expanding rapidly in this niche.
This is a great low-cost gym format for entrepreneurs since stretching doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment. Capital required to get in is between $100,000 and $200,000 or so.
With the growth of homeschooling and small/independent/charter schools that may lack sports fields, more kids and teens need independent P.E. options. Youth in elite sports also look for off-season workouts to stay fit, and child-focused gym concepts have arisen to meet these needs.
These can be feel-good franchises to own, as most concepts teach leadership skills and self-confidence along with fitness. Most also have a fairly small footprint and are lower cost to operate.
As you can see, the world of fitness franchising now offers a wide range of concepts for entrepreneurs who want to make a positive impact on the community and help people get healthier. And there’s only growth ahead for this niche. If you’re looking at this sector, be sure to explore all the available opportunities.