Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

Planet Fitness and the Return of the Gym

Ethan Chernofsky
February 18, 2021
Planet Fitness and the Return of the Gym

Admittedly, we have high hopes for the gym sector and for Planet Fitness specifically. But there are reasons for the excitement and January data shows both why we are particularly optimistic, and why that optimism may be difficult to see upon initial glance.

January Success?

Looking at Planet Fitness monthly visits year over year paints a very clear, if not expected, picture. The brand kicked off 2020 with huge amounts of visit growth before quickly and obviously succumbing to the damaging effects of COVID. Yet, as 2020 progressed the brand saw the year-over-year visit gap shrink, and by October, visits were down just 24.6%. And this is an especially impressive number considering we’re speaking of gyms. Gyms rely on lots of people being together in an enclosed space which is not an ideal setup for the world of social distancing. Additionally, the decline of work and school routines impacted visits for many who had visited the gym before or after work/school, as opposed to choosing a gym based on proximity to home.  

But, like much of the retail landscape, the resurgence of COVID cases limited that progress and increased year-over-year visit gaps in November and December. And 2021 kicked off with the visit gap increasing again, a potentially worrying result considering how important Q1 is to gyms.

And this reality was felt across the gym sector with all of the chains analyzed seeing year-over-year gaps increase in January. These results give the impression that the sector’s recovery could take a lot longer - if they are able to recover at all. But how bad was it really?

Diving Deeper - A Far Brighter Picture

In reality, the result for many was far more positive than a surface level view of the data shows. For example, Planet Fitness is being unfairly punished because of the huge increase in year over year visits experienced in early 2020. When comparing January visits in 2021 to 2020 the visit gap was 34.7%, but when comparing to 2019 levels - something we will see many brands do in 2021 - the visit gap shrinks dramatically to just 19.0%. This is the most significant difference for the brands analyzed, indicating just how much Planet Fitness visits had risen in such a short period, and how the current scenario is likely obscuring even more impressive growth potential moving forward.

Additionally, while all of these brands are feeling the effects of COVID, they still saw major boosts in January. Planet Fitness saw a 47.3% month-over-month increase in visits in January when compared to December, a number that fell short of the 61.2% increase seen between December 2019 and January 2020 a year earlier. Other brands saw similar drops, though not as marked. This further indicates that many of the aforementioned and COVID related challenges are what is truly holding Planet Fitness and many other fitness chains back.

Finally, the visit data did also show progress on a weekly view with the year over year visit gap improving almost every week throughout the month. Should this pace continue, the results could be even more surprising, even faster. 

Feeling Even Better About Planet Fitness

So, a month into the year, how do we feel about our pick of Planet Fitness as one of 2021’s winners? Even better than before.


First, the brand is clearly recovering and doing so at an impressive pace considering the huge size of the chain and the challenges that size presents. As an example, the chain’s largest concentration of locations is in California, the state most hard hit by COVID related regulations and visit declines. As COVID’s effects begin to dissipate, there may not be a brand more likely to benefit faster than Planet Fitness. Second, the year-over-year comparison for Planet Fitness is a high bar to reach, meaning that even in cases where the visit gap is larger, it doesn’t necessarily indicate weakness. Instead, it shows just how strong Planet Fitness was in a non-COVID environment. And this means that when ‘normalcy’ returns, the turnaround could come incredibly fast. 

Third, there is a powerful opportunity being presented because of its alignment with a few key trends. The brand offers a high-value proposition in a period of economic uncertainty and health and wellness have come to the forefront for many consumers - making Planet Fitness a great fit to address this need. Fourth, with many chains already announcing store closures, Planet Fitness may be the likeliest to gain new members, as it also has the highest rates of cross visits with those chains. 

Fifth, Planet Fitness has shown the ability to give malls and shopping centers a boost, and in an environment where suburban centers are experiencing a population increase, the chain - and the centers that house its locations - could be one of the prime beneficiaries. Finally, routines matter for gyms, and routines have been completely disrupted. Should they return, even only partially, the chain should see an immediate boost.

The result of these conclusions is a reality where a brand is being judged under the harshest possible conditions, and yet is still showing the capacity to recover even in that environment. If the wider circumstances improve, as we all hope they will, it is hard to imagine a scenario where Planet Fitness doesn’t thrive. 

Visit the blog for more insights into the gym sector. 

Get 3 brand & industry
breakdowns every week

Subscribe to the newsletter

Great! Prepare your inbox for data-driven insights...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get a Demo

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please provide a valid email
Please enter your email
Please enter company name

Thanks for reaching out!

One of our experts will be in touch soon

Try Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Why Are Specialty Grocers Thriving in 2023?
The CAVA Craze: A Location Intelligence Perspective on the Mediterranean Marvel
How Will Primark’s US Expansion Impact Target?
All Eyes on Eyewear
Northwestern U.S. Grocery Dive
Return of the Lunch: Salad Chains Are Thriving
Retail Media Networks – Off the Beaten Track
Bet Your Bottom Dollar: Discount and Dollar Stores Drive Foot Traffic
Ulta & Lululemon: Discretionary Spending On The Up
The Score After Q1: Sporting Goods Chains
Who Uses NYC Airports: Biting Into The Big Apple’s Main Transport Hubs
Off Price: Strength in The Face of Retail Challenges
Visits Improve for Home Improvement
Walmart, Target & Wholesalers in Q1 2023 – The Return of Mission-Driven Shopping?
Department Store Roundup: Q1 2023 Office Index: April 2023 Recap Mall Index, April 2023 – A Rebound on the Horizon?
How Will Bed Bath & Beyond’s Bankruptcy Impact the Retail Space?
Buffet Restaurants: Filling Up on Foot Traffic
Thrift Stores: Vintage Visits Drive New Age in Apparel
The Windy City: A Hub of Post-Pandemic Opportunity
Diving into Dining Traffic - Q1 2023
Bring On The Joe
A Dollar (or more) For Your Thoughts: Five Below and pOpshelf
Dining Out With The Cheesecake Factory
Retail Foot Traffic Recap – March 2023
Digging Into 2023: McDonald’s and Chipotle Update Office Index: March 2023 Recap
How Did Key Retail Categories Perform in Q1 2023?
Northeastern USA Grocery Dive
Movie Theaters Storylines for 2023
Ollie's Bargain Outlet: Discounters are Evolving
Leveraging Brick-and-Mortar Retail in 2023
America’s Evolving Work Patterns: A Deep-Dive into New York and Chicago Mall Index March 2023
Tuning Into Record Stores
Five Franchises To Watch in 2023
What’s Next For Domestic Tourism?
It’s Showtime! Movie Theaters in the Spotlight
5 Limited Time Offers (LTOs) Driving Restaurant Traffic
Department Store Deep-Dive: Belk
Regional Grocery Chains Staying Ahead of the Competition
Five Chains that Rightsized for Success
Unlocking the Potential of Offline Retail Media Networks
Dining Out With Darden
What’s in Store for Self-Storage?
Nike & lululemon Update: Strong Performance Amid Expansion Plans
Many Ways to Win: Midwest Grocery Deep Dive
Retail, Reinvented: The Rise of the Pop-Up Shop
Navigating a New Normal in Business Travel & Commutes Office Index: February 2023 Recap
Retail Categories Staying Strong in Volatile Environment
Ulta Beauty: Poised for Success into 2023 Mall Index February 2023: Reasons for Continued Optimism
Catching Up With DICK’s & Hibbett
The Miami-Dade Arena: An Advertising Slam Dunk
Car Washes Revving Up Visits
Tuesday Morning and Sunrises in Home Furnishing
Dining & Valentine’s Day Recap
2023: The Year of the Discount Store
Aldi’s Success Highlights Growing Demand for Value Groceries
5 Retail & Service Categories Holding onto Pandemic Gains in 2023
Visitor Insights from Super Bowl 2023
2023 First Look: Home Improvement Update
How Are Target, Walmart, and Wholesale Clubs Faring in 2023?
Department Store Deep-Dive: Nordstrom
Off-Price: Taking Off in Uncertain Times
Checking in On Middle-Class Hubs
Who Attends the Super Bowl? Office Index: January 2023 Recap
Focusing On Fitness: Q4 and January Recap Mall Index: January 2023 – Returning Mall Normalcy?
Location Intelligence Insights Into Concert Attendance
Winning Dining Strategies for 2023
In-N-Out Burger: What to Expect as the Brand Moves East
Location Intelligence Breakdown: Coffee Caps-Off 2022
Digitally Native Brands Lean Into Brick & Mortar
Washington, D.C. Population Changes & Migration Trends
A Location Intelligence Perspective on Macy’s Rightsizing
Amazon-Powered Shopping: The Future of Brick-and-Mortar Grocery?
Cold Weather, Hot Visits: Diving into Winter Resorts
Wawa and 7-Eleven: Leaning Into the “Slurpee Effect”
2022 and Beyond: Catching Up With McDonald’s & Chipotle
Let’s Have Some Fun! Going Out Is In’s Q4 2022 Quarterly Index Adds Industry Executives to Leadership Team To Drive Company's Next Phase of Growth
5 Emerging Retail Formats: 2023’s Brick-and-Mortar Evolution
Grocery Update: Zooming in on the Lone Star State
2022 Office Recap: The Year of the TGIF Work Week
What Lies Ahead for Brick-and-Mortar Luxury in 2023 Mall Indexes: December 2022 Recap
Looking Back on 2022’s Holiday Shopping Season
Post-Pandemic Migration Trends in New York
Top Retailers for 2023
The Live Sports Advertising Opportunity
Domestic Migration to the Mountain States: Small Shifts with Big Implications
New Year, New Food: 5 Dining Trends For 2023
This is Why Shop-in-Shops Are Everywhere
Super Saturday 2022 Recap