Club Insider

The Year Ahead

Ten Predictions for the Health and Fitness Industry in 2017 - Part I

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Stephen TharrettStephen Tharrett

On the eve of each new year, industry experts and prognosticators hunker over their computers, studying industry benchmarks and trends to extrapolate nuggets of wisdom in order to forecast, or at least predict, what will happen in the New Year. For these individuals, the goal is to be the voice of the near future, to provide a degree of clarity on what might be expected in the upcoming year, or as T.S. Eliot so eloquently said, "For last year's words belong to last year's language, and next year's words await another voice."

Our goal with this article is to lend an informed voice for the new health and fitness industry language of 2017. We understand that our prognostications are as likely to be right as wrong, and with any luck, they will bring forward insights to help industry professionals map out their expectations for 2017, including those that, at the moment, seem unexpected. So, it is with humility, and a touch of modern intellect, that we offer up our forecast on what the fitness industry might, or might not, expect in 2017.

An Informed and Gambling Voice for 2017

Mark WilliamsonMark Williamson

1. Unique, Different and Niche Will Become the Buzzwords and Strategy of the Enlighted in 2017 - Over the past few years, the health and fitness industry has experienced a few minor storms of "creative destruction," such as the introduction of budget clubs and boutique fitness centers. Yet, despite the emergence of these outliers, the vast majority of the industry has remained mired in stasis, chasing the same trends. Recent data from IHRSA (their Health Club Consumer Report and others) shows the number of fitness facilities has outpaced the growth in members for the past two years (negative gap of 3 - 5%), with the average number of members per facility down by 200 over the past five years. In 2016, ClubIntel conducted brand health studies for several operators, and what each showed, rather overwhelmingly, was the lack of differentiation from the consumers' perspective.

In 2017, we see more industry players, primarily independents and small regional firms, talking the talk about uniqueness, differentiation and niche and pursuing a business strategy that leverages what Youngme Moon, author of Different calls "lopsidedness." We believe the enlightened operators understand that different, niche or unique is not about a new price point, a different color logo or the insertion of a new program; instead, they see the pursuit of lopsidedness as having a passion and discipline to make disruptive, sustainable and constant innovation a mantra within their organization. We believe that, in 2017, enlightened players will use a form of business CRISPER (gene splicing) to create a new business genome that creates true lopsidedness for their businesses, and consequently, sustainable differentiation in an industry of sameness.

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