3 gaps in the market for gym owners

Worth over $91 billion worldwide, the fitness industry is booming, and to capitalize, astute entrepreneurs are opening more and more gyms and exercise facilities across the US.

But, “like all businesses,” insurance provider Salon Gold iterates, “running a gym comes with certain risks.” As a gym owner, you have to juggle the maintenance of your facilities, with securing revenue, and the wellbeing of your employees — not to mention preparing for the risk of harm to clients who may become injured while using your facilities.

However, with over 31,000 gyms in the US alone, perhaps the current greatest threat to gym owners is competition. Dominated by giant health club chains, the market is highly saturated, resulting in poor customer retention rates, unpredictable income, and in some cases, business closure.

That being said, the fitness industry is still ripe for entrepreneurs to succeed in by targeting unmet consumer needs. Now is the moment to develop a niche for your gym if you don’t already have one. Here are three places where the market is lacking and strategies to set yourself apart from the competition.

1.   Women-only gyms

2022 is the year of inclusivity, with non-binary bathrooms and gender-neutral German lessons, as well as multi-platinum pop singers and stars of hit shows like House of the Dragon advocating for gender neutrality. Society is embracing this new way of life, so why are we encouraging more women-only gyms in this article?

Well, many people admit to putting off exercising at a gym due to a phenomenon known as ‘gymtimidation’. And, for women, these feelings of fear and apprehension can be directly linked to working out alongside men.

Shockingly, statistics show that 71% of women have been harassed in a gym setting at least once. This is a huge problem that points to an even deeper issue and is not something to be exploited, however, searches for women’s only gyms have risen considerably in the past year, indicating that there is huge demand for this type of service.

How to make your gym female-only

Opening a female-only gym can be a profitable and rewarding venture. However, before doing so, you should take note of what it takes to run a successful, single-gender studio. This can be achieved by conducting extensive market research, reviewing what your competitors and market leaders offer, and taking advantage of what they don’t. In general, your gym should prioritize safety, comfort, and community, cultivating a culture that focuses on holistic fitness journeys rather than merely body image.

However, a common complaint about female gyms is that they aren’t as demanding as traditional facilities, so don’t compromise on the weights if you really want to fill a valuable gap in the market! The idea is to make people feel more at ease when exercising while still providing a challenging workout experience.

2.   Gamified gyms

A gamified gym is, put simply, a fitness center that uses gaming elements to make working out more enjoyable. These cutting-edge gyms address one of the most challenging issues confronting the market today: how to keep members coming back. Already making waves in new-wave gyms are rowing machines that let users channel their inner zombie hunter, as well as VR (virtual reality) spinning classes that transport you to Skyrim-style, high-fantasy locations.

Leaderboards, points systems, and awards for achieving fitness goals are all ways in which gamified exercises might help improve the historically unstable customer retention rates at gyms. In fact, Mindbody Business explains that VR can help a gym user become more emotionally attached to their workout regime. More broadly, it advises: “It’s important businesses understand and utilize technology in the future to keep up with competitors and consumer demand.”

Tips for opening a gamified gym

According to Perfect Gym, “there are two main areas fitness companies, clubs, and gyms need to consider when preparing for the fitness metaverse” — software (fitness and gym management software) and hardware (headsets, controllers, gloves, and VR glasses).

But before you allow your members to go off and deadlift in an exotic VR landscape, it’s worth noting that running a gamified studio comes with certain complications, especially if your guests are using expensive, unfamiliar, and high-tech equipment.

If you think an exergaming setup is for you, you might want to start small, such as with dedicated apps and leaderboards, and then expand into offering interactive fitness equipment. If you do so, be sure to put protective measures in place to make your gym completely user-friendly. This should include cleaning and maintenance protocols, and thorough inductions on how to use the equipment.

3.   Sustainable gyms

In order to meet rising consumer demand and address growing environmental concerns, the health and fitness industry is turning to sustainability. As a result, eco-gyms are springing up all over the world to capitalize on this profitable yet ethical business opportunity.

One notable example is Terra Hale in the UK, which converts energy into electricity. Across its small chain of gyms, the brand boasts people-powered treadmills, recycled wooden flooring, and — you guessed it — no plastic in sight. With a total ban on the problematic material, guests are encouraged to drink out bamboo flasks, use rubber resistance bands and yoga mats, and exercise wearing eco-friendly athletic wear.

How to make your gym more sustainable

If you want to reach a large target audience with your new business, an eco-friendly theme may be just the way to go. Although, it’s worth noting that while fully-sustainable gyms like Terra Hale are great for the environment, they require a costly upfront investment from new business owners. However, this is not to say that your studio cannot be based on similar values; far from it, since many eco-friendly aspects may be easily included into almost any gym configuration.

As Glo Fox writes: “you can achieve a competitive edge in the industry by using some simple business practices to create a more environmentally friendly gym.” From installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs and supplying recycling bins, to going paperless and reducing your water waste, even small businesses can reap the benefits of making their gym a greener place to grind.

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