European News: Stellar Club Growth, IHRSA in Ireland, WBSF

A study shows 4.6% growth in Europe clubs, IHRSA solidifies ties in Ireland, and former Matrix Fitness leader takes California studio international.

The health club market expands in Europe, a new study shows; IHRSA will head to Ireland for the European Congress on the heels of entering a new partnership with Ireland Active; and California-based Workout Bar Social Fitness eyes global opportunities.

Club Openings Drive Industry Growth in the European Market

In 2018, the number of European health clubs increased by a healthy 4.6%, with more than 2,300 facilities opening in 18 countries. That’s the total change calculated by the European Health & Fitness Market Report 2018, published by Deloitte-Europe Active.

Among the other metrics and trends chronicled in the report are the following:

  • One-third of the new clubs opened in the U.K. and Germany, which saw their club counts increase by
    319 (4.6%) and 355 (3.9%), respectively. The low-cost segment continues to be the primary catalyst, with U.K. brands such as the Gym Group and PureGym expanding via indigenous growth or acquisitions.
  • In Germany, micro-club concepts and electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) studios have made headway.
  • In France, the number of clubs grew by 4%, with Basic-Fit, a budget chain based in the Netherlands, opening nearly 100 locations there last year.
  • Finland and Turkey recorded double-digit increases in the number of clubs—16.3% and 17.2%, respectively. Finland’s most significant growth came from OleFit and Liikku, each of which opened 10 facilities. In Turkey, MACFit, the country’s largest chain, established 17 new units, bringing its total there to 87.

It’s important to note, however, that these markets have very different market penetration rates—16.8% for Finland; and 2.8% for Turkey, which is Europe’s lowest level.

Ireland Active Aligns with IHRSA, Hosts 2019 European Congress

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Earlier this year, IHRSA increased its European presence by entering into three new strategic partnerships in the U.K., Sweden, and Denmark, and, now, it’s established a similar relationship with Ireland Active, which represents the Irish health and fitness industry.

The arrangement allows the organization’s more than 300 members to join IHRSA and participate in the association’s educational programs and events. The latter includes this fall’s premier gathering—the IHRSA European Congress, which will take place October 14–17, at the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road, in Dublin.

Ireland Active will support the session and serve as its host.

“The Irish health and fitness industry has grown significantly over the past 10 years,” says Barry Walsh, the chairperson of Ireland Active. “Personal exercise is now the No. 1 sport in Ireland, with almost 13% of the population taking part. As host, we look forward to showcasing the Irish sector to our guests. We’ll visit some of the most cutting-edge clubs in Dublin.”

“We’re delighted to be returning to the city of Dublin after 10 years for what promises to be a most memorable 2019 IHRSA European Congress,” says Florian Cartoux, IHRSA Europe director. “Each year, the Congress attracts a growing number of distinguished business leaders from throughout Europe and beyond, who come to network and learn about the latest industry trends.”

Registration for the IHRSA European Congress is now open.

Newcomer Workout Bar Social Fitness Eyes International Options

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Workout Bar Social Fitness (WBSF), a unique fitness studio concept that made its debut in Chula Vista, CA, last year, is already flexing its ambitions and eyeing global opportunities.

The company plans to open additional corporate-owned studios over the next five years, and to introduce a franchise model, eventually growing to 400 locations in the U.S. and internationally.

WBSF is definitely a fitness offering, but one with a strong social component. Developed by entrepreneurs Brian Blacher, Steve Vlchek, and Hector Troncoso, it’s designed to transform exercise into a social occasion, with individuals of all ages, genders, and fitness levels working out together in a vibrant, supportive, people-focused environment.

The offering comes in three models: Workout Bar Express; Workout Bar Boutique (with studios inside the studio); and Workout Bar Premium Chic.

The brand strives to keep members “connected” inside the studio via its Social Bar, where they can congregate casually, and outside with social media and its smartphone app.

The company’s expansion in the U.K. will be led by Social Fitness Growth Partners, Ltd.; and Jon Nasta, the

former sales director of Matrix Fitness, and marketing director for Xercise4Less, a budget British brand. “The goal of this project is to create an environment where exercise is accessible to the majority of the population,” Nasta says. “We don’t intend to simply compete for the same members that all of the old gym concepts continue to fight over.”

Author avatar

Florian Cartoux @florian_cartoux

Florian Cartoux is director of the IHRSA European office in Brussels, Belgium. He's is in charge of growing IHRSA's membership in Europe, and attendance at IHRSA events. Being fluent in French, German, and English, Florian spends the best part of his time visiting the four corners of Europe meeting members and prospects. In his spare time, he tries to find time to play the drums, and be a good dad with his two daughters.