The North West has the fourth highest concentration of gyms in the UK, according to research from Colliers International, which added that gyms could help plug gaps in UK high streets.
In its review of the UK health & fitness market, Colliers identified that the North West had 40 gyms per 1m households, placing the region fourth in a table of 11 regions nationwide, coming in behind Greater London, the South East and West Midlands with 85, 42 and 41 gyms per 1m households respectively.
Colliers’ research, available online here, also showed that the most prominent gym brand in the region is budget operator PureGym, which currently operates 28 sites across the North West.
A trend highlighted by Colliers is the move of gyms to high street locations, something also highlighted by other industry observers as being driven by consumers’ desire for convenience, along with the increasing availability of suitable units as many in the retail sector continue to struggle.
Colliers said that gyms operating in high street locations across the UK rose from 317 to 365 between 2017 and 2019, representing a 15% increase in this type of location.
Of those brands increasing their high street presence the fastest movers are all low-cost operators noted for their preparedness to take on a diverse range of premises. The Gym, Anytime Fitness and PureGym have grown their portfolio sizes by 75%, 32% and 28% respectively over the two-year period.
A further trend noted by Colliers is the rising popularity of class-based fitness and group exercise with pay-per-class studio gym concepts now accounting for 42% of all gyms via specialist providers such as Barry’s Bootcamp in Manchester and Barrecore in Hale and Alderley Edge.
Colin Siebert, director, licensed and leisure at the Manchester office of Colliers, said: “The North West gym market is robust in terms of ongoing demand from operators such as Xercise4Less seeking space in city centres and elsewhere.
“We are also witnessing a rising requirement for organised fitness classes as much as standalone gyms because providers appreciate that the experience is important to not only retain customers but also to attract new participants.”
Ross Kirton, Colliers’ head of UK leisure agency, added: “In theory, the strength of the UK’s gym market could provide the perfect ‘white knight’ to the ailing high street retail sector. However, landlords and occupiers alike must ensure that expansion is undertaken in a sustainable way that matches the right gym model with the right location and the right demographic to avoid oversupply.
“If planned correctly, gyms – especially the studio variety with small floorplates – could be one offer which helps fill the voids left by high street retail or restaurant store closures. With the ability to drive footfall to otherwise struggling retail locations, gyms now occupy a stronger position than ever in the UK’s alternative leisure market.”