Club Insider

Health Club Consumer Behavior Sheds Light On Industry's Future

The 2014 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report

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Stephen TharrettStephen Tharrett

IHRSA, with analysis and insights provided by ClubIntel, recently finalized the 2014 Health Club Consumer Report (to be released by IHRSA in September and can be acquired at www.ihrsa.org/consumer-report). The 2014 Health Club Consumer Report, like its predecessors, delves into the attitudes and behaviors of health club consumers, seeking to understand the impact these current practices might have on how club operators shape their business in the future. This year's report took a deeper dive into consumer behaviors and choices not mined in previous reports. Consequently, the data and insights from the 2014 report provide some new and exciting insights into how consumers and members use health clubs.

In 1919, Marcel Proust, author of A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, was quoted as saying, "What we call our future is the shadow that our past projects in front of us." Well, in the case of the health club industry, the health club consumer behaviors brought forth in IHRSA's 2014 Health Club Consumer Report convey a vivid story of the recent past and present and serving as a GPS for club operators and manufacturers to follow for 2014 and beyond.

Mark WilliamsonMark Williamson

The 2014 report offers an exhaustive look at how consumers and members use their clubs, examining a host of variables ranging from what members practice to how they spend their discretionary income in the health club environment. Similar to last year's report, IHRSA has taken stock of how health club consumer behavior tracks against larger national demographic and economic trends. In the report's last section, IHRSA brings forth eleven key insights accompanied by six strategic plays that operators might consider in leveraging the report's insights.

The first insight brought forward by the report is the fact that the health club industry continues to show all the signs and symptoms of a mature industry, an insight first brought forward in the 2013 report. These signs and symptoms of maturity include industry membership levels growing at approximately the same rate as the U.S. GDP at 1.86% over the last three years (See Figure 1 Below), average price points for membership remaining relatively flat (prices have swung up and down the last few years), club supply outpacing membership growth, and finally, increasing market segmentation (See Figure 2). Being a mature industry brings enormous challenges, but also exciting opportunities, and like other industries before us, the health club industry seems to be embracing these opportunities. Membership has reached slightly over 52 million and represents 18% of the U.S. population, an all-time high. This is a clear indication that membership growth continues to move forward. In 2014, just over 20% of consumers pursued their fitness aspirations within boutique fitness facilities (e.g., in the report, they are referred to as studios of various segments, including yoga/Pilates/barre, sports-specific, indoor cycling/rowing, etc.), a clear indication that niche offerings with unique value propositions offer an appealing alternative to the "conventional" business models that have fueled the industry's past growth.

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