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Fitness Positioned for a Strong 2023 Finish

Shira Petrack
November 3, 2023
Fitness Positioned for a Strong 2023 Finish

The offline fitness space was one of 2022’s biggest surprise winners, with exercisers flocking back to health clubs despite predictions of the sector’s imminent demise. And the industry’s strength continued going into 2023 as inflation-strapped consumers enjoyed the affordable endorphin boost provided by a gym session. Now, we dove back into the data to see where leading fitness chains stand as we prepare to wrap up 2023. 

Leading Players Still Growing 

Recent visit data highlights the extraordinary post-pandemic success of the fitness sector. Planet Fitness, LA Fitness, Crunch Fitness, and 24 Hour Fitness all saw consistent year-over-year (YoY) visit growth between April and September 2023 – an impressive feat given the comparison to an already strong 2022. 

At the same time, the visit data also indicates that the surge may be flattening, with the YoY monthly bumps in August and September lower than they were between April and July 2023 for LA Fitness, Crunch Fitness, and Planet Fitness. But the reduced momentum does not mean that the sector is in any sort of trouble – visits to the four chains analyzed still remained higher than in 2022, even if the growth rate is moderating somewhat.

Planet Fitness & Crunch Fitness Lead the Yo4Y Visit Spike

The strength of the fitness sector – and of two players in particular, Planet Fitness and Crunch Fitness – becomes even more apparent when comparing this year’s monthly visit numbers to pre-pandemic 2019. Planet Fitness and Crunch Fitness invested in expansions at the height of the pandemic, and both chains have continued growing as the offline fitness space made a roaring comeback. Now, thanks in large part to the significant increase in venues since 2019, monthly visits to Planet Fitness and Crunch Fitness in September 2023 were up by 53.2% and 116.9% year-over-four-years (Yo4Y).

Meanwhile, 24 Hour Fitness – which permanently shuttered over 100 locations in the context of its 2020 bankruptcy filing, also saw Yo4Y growth in monthly visits between May and August 2023 – another testament to the resilience of the industry. Yo4Y visits to the LA Fitness banner did dip for most months analyzed, but at least some of these visit losses could be due to the company’s rebranding many LA Fitness locations as Esporta Fitness – so traffic that used to be attributed to LA Fitness is now credited to Esporta. And both brands posted impressive YoY visit increases, as shown in the graph above – so the chains appear to be on the right track to regain the ground lost over COVID. 

What is Driving Planet Fitness and Crunch Fitness’ Strength? 

Planet Fitness and Crunch Fitness’ massive Yo4Y visit growth points to a successful expansion. So what is driving visits to these two brands? 

Analyzing the trade area composition of Planet Fitness, LA Fitness, Crunch Fitness, and 24 Hour Fitness highlights differences between the audiences of these four brands. Planet Fitness and Crunch Fitness seem to appeal to mid-income audiences, with trade area median HHIs of $66.9K and $71.2K, respectively – close to the nationwide median of $69.5K. Both chains also advertise their affordable membership tiers, which start at $10 a month. Meanwhile, LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness attract exercises from slightly higher-income areas. Planet Fitness and Crunch Fitness’ popularity with audiences that may be harder-hit by inflation and in more need of an affordable past-time could be contributing to these chains’ success. 

Planet Fitness and Crunch Fitness also drew visitors from smaller households when compared to LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness, where 27.3% and 30.4% of the trade area households, respectively, include four or more people. It’s no secret that finding time to exercise while raising two (or more) children can be difficult, so the relatively lower share of large households in Planet Fitness and Crunch Fitness’ trade areas could be another driver of these chains’ successful expansions. 

Fitness Sector Maintains its Gains

As 2023 wraps up, the fitness space appears poised to maintain the spectacular gains it made since the post-lockdowns reopenings. Leading chains are continuing to post YoY visit growth – albeit at a slightly lower pace – and some brands, such as Planet Fitness and Crunch Fitness, are significantly stronger now than they were pre-pandemic. And with the traditional January fitness peak around the corner, the category may have even further to grow in 2024. 

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