While there are lots of hopeful signs for boutique fitness, the onslaught – and aftermath – of COVID-19 seems to have spelled doom and gloom for big box gyms.
For one, gyms were gold mines for commercial landlords until the crisis hit.
And now conventional wisdom, and a number of pundits, suggests that the downward spiral of gyms started before COVID-19, with millennials, who have long had a preference for on-demand services and are less attracted to locking in annual membership fees. If paying as you go is where the market is moving, COVID-19 accelerated the pace of disruption in fitness, and studios and clubs both small and large are increasingly vulnerable, as demonstrated by the bankruptcy filings of such stalwarts as 24 Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym (Town Sports is also considering filing).
All that being said, at the end of the day, while the exercise landscape has certainly changed, traditional gyms are probably not going away.
An estimated 20% of Americans have a membership to some kind of fitness club, and as gyms open up across the country and around the world, people are returning in droves to sweat with their peers- surveys show that as many as 80% of respondents are likely to retain their gym membership.
One of the gym’s big appeals—besides easy access to equipment and workout space, two things that are expensive and may not be available at home—is access to both the expert knowledge of trainers and class instructors and the community knowledge and support of other people working out.