Tech companies help gyms limber up for reform
With the UK economy returning to growth, the keep-fit industry is keen to tap into additional consumer spending. But consumers are now demanding either cheaper options or fun specialist workouts, challenging the models offered by traditional gyms such as Virgin Active and LA Fitness, which sign members up on long-term contracts to single clubs. According to researcher Mintel, some 32% of gym users in the UK prefer to pay per visit, while 39% would like to pay a flat annual fee and 22% want to pay only for the facilities they use. But the internet and social media are now helping consumers to become better informed, and new businesses are acting as middlemen, linking users with a range of small studios. Homegrown start-ups such as Payasugym allow consumers to buy shorter-term entry to studios around London at steep discounts, while passes to some of the UK's biggest gyms regularly feature on Groupon. 'There is so much happening around the gym industry,' says Fitness First's Mark Hutcheon. 'It's forcing the gym sector and the owners in it to radically change the model.'
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