Once again Elevate 2023 delivered a wealth of learning and networking opportunities. Here are our 8 hottest takeaways for gym, health & fitness club owners and operators.

Elevate 2023 returned to a sunny ExCel London on 14 and 15 June 2023. Thousands of leaders from gyms, fitness clubs and studios gathered to see showcases from hundreds of suppliers of all shapes and sizes.

And the 6th edition of Elevate exceeded all expectations with outstanding opportunities for owners and operators to network and learn. With so much to do, it was impossible to see and hear everything. That’s where we can help with our hottest takeaways for gym owners and operators.

We enjoyed welcoming many customers and partners, as well as new and old industry friends to the Xplor stand. Thank you to everyone who joined us – we hope you indulged in our retro pick ‘n’ mix stand!

Let’s get stuck in!

Hot take #1: The gym is being reimagined

Elevate 2023 boasted an impressive 10 education theatres. And one of the key for gym owners and operators was the Business of Physical Activity theatres. The first session it had to offer was a Future Trends panel hosted by industry legend, David Minton from LeisureDB.

David was joined by Sam Miller (Co-Founder and CEO of Atlas AI), Neil King (Founder/CEO of Longevity Network), Lara Morgan (Venture Partner in brands including dryrobe, Scentered, KitBrix, activbod), and Kate Corfield (Head of Fitness Development at Ministry of Sound).

Much like we’ve heard at PerformX Live and other industry events, the pivot towards wellbeing was a hot topic discussed in this session. Kate shared how Ministry of Sound have set about creating The Ministry. A space that gives members a place to work, work out, and work on wellbeing.

With 5 generations in the workforce. And younger people shying away from the conventional 9 to 5 way of working, Ministry of Sound is creating appealing spaces that go beyond the realm of a traditional workplace. While making it easier for members to move more and look after their health on their own timetable – all in a supportive and motivating environment.

What does this mean for gym owners & operators?

This is a shift that you should pay attention to. Clubs are pivoting and incorporating more wellbeing services – through education and practical classes. And by offering places to work, members can stay for longer and work out when’s convenient in their day.

Hot take #2: Longevity is a hot topic

It’s estimated that by 2030, more than half of the UK population will be aged over 50. The Future Trends session also discussed the growing need to cater for the aging population.

And this was a topic covered in the Getting The Industry In Shape For The Future session on Thursday. Hosted by Alina Cooper (Co-Founder & COO of GetSetGo!), this panel featured a fantastic line up including Rob Handy (Independent Gyms), Steve Ruffel (Orbit4), Chris Scragg (Nuffield Health), Lisa Kuecker (Studio Grow), and Neil King (Longevity Network).

When asked about the future of the industry, with a long history in roles across the industry, Neil talked about the need to collaborate more with the biotech industry. This collaboration will help the aging population live longer and healthier lives right up until the end.

It’s likely to mean creating a more personal experience that caters for different needs and conditions. Supporting nutrition and supplement choices with the right activity mix.

Operators will need the right team to support this. And that means recruiting from new places. During the Future Trends panel, Neil explained the need to train longevity coaches. Coaches who could be recruited from those leaving areas like healthcare and teaching to build an educated workforce with the benefit of life experience.

With an aging population brings people looking for a new career later in life – even into their 60s, explained Lisa. With a wealth of experience in the studio segment at a global level, Lisa is an authority on global trends, and this is one to watch.

What does this mean for gym owners & operators?

Without a doubt, as time goes on you can choose to shift your focus towards supporting the significant portion of society that’s over 50. That means working out the best way to support and provide education to this demographic to help them stay active and healthy for longer. And recruiting from new talent pools to build the right team to achieve this.

Hot take #3: Fitness is intercepting with healthcare

This is a hot topic right now that has the power to reimagine how the fitness industry is viewed from the outside and inside. We attended several sessions that argued the need to align the fitness industry closer to health. And even pivot to become the wellbeing or wellness industry.

And one of the sessions that discussed this topic was the Getting The Industry In Shape For The Future panel. Lisa Kuecker from Studio Grow shared that the industry has a big role to play in preventative medicine – bringing together fitness and medicine.

Lisa shared that in other parts of the world facilities are shifting to a wellness centre model with multiple fitness modalities and functional medicine offered in the same place. This concept is just starting to take off in the UK. And it’s especially pertinent to supporting longevity goals of the aging population we discussed in our second hot take.

Having everything under one roof or from one provider can be a tough call. Even for the likes of Nuffield Health as Chris Scragg shared. So, collaborating with others in your area will be key to building a health ecosystem of platform businesses.

Chris also explained that as the NHS evolves, there’s likely to be more elements of healthcare outsourced to other providers. To take advantage of this opportunity that will come with financial benefits, owners and operators must be able to prove the outcomes of services offered. And that means you need to take a personalised approach to the programmes you create and carefully capture datapoints that showcase the results you bring.

GM Active’s Prehab 4 Cancer programme is a great example from the leisure sector of how private gym owners and operators can achieve success in becoming a part of the healthcare ecosystem.

As well as being able to prove outcomes of programmes, there’s also a need to professionalise the industry. That means that training and greater governance is likely needed to increase the perceived professionalism of the fitness and wellbeing industry.

What does this mean for gym owners & operators?

To supercharge your fitness offering, start looking at practical ways you can support the overall health and wellbeing of your members. That might mean linking up with local functionable medicine providers to create a network of professionals to refer members too (and get referrals from them too).

If there are particular outcomes you help members achieve, start capturing measurable data that you can use to show success. And look to provide your team with up-to-date training and qualifications.

Hot take #4: Tackling attrition is key to unlocking growth

LeisureDB’s State of the UK Fitness Industry 2023 report found that the penetration rate of the industry has reached 15.1%. While this is good news for the industry, it does mean there’s almost 85% of the UK population that the industry can still reach. And some will have been members previously.

Member retention and attrition has long been a challenge for owners and operators. And often the answer has been to sign up new members. Yet, the likelihood is that many will leave for the same reasons as others have before. And some will never return feeling that ‘the gym’ is not a place for them.

In an exclusive session for Elevate attendees, we unveiled a preview of Xplor’s new attrition research that’s designed to shed light on current trends and provide actionable insights to help you overcome common challenges.

This panel, Winning The War On Attrition, was hosted by Huw Edwards (ukactive), who was joined by Julie Allen (Leisure-Net Solutions), Guy Griffiths (GGFit), Martin Perry (Technogym), and Dave Alstead (Xplor).

The panel discussed the need to engage members right from the start of their journey. And really make sure each member understands the value of their membership investment. That has to begin with onboarding. The research showed that inductions may be missing the mark – a tick box exercise that’s failing to motivate new members early on.

It’s also clear from the findings, that many members leave without ever really telling clubs why. Dave explained that if we’re ever to really solve the attrition conundrum then it’s important to get accurate leaving reasons and address them. So, future new members don’t leave for the same reasons.

What does this mean for gym owners & operators?

Review the data within your gym CRM and other systems, to see why members are currently leaving. Act where you can.

And download your copy of our attrition research. It’s packed with actionable strategies from experts, including Guy and Julie, to tackle retention through effective engagement and motivation.

Hot take #5: It’s time to tap into nutrition

Nutrition can be just as important as fitness when it comes to helping members achieve many types of goals. And nutrition was a topic discussed in the Nutrition Solutions – An Untapped Market In Gyms? session with Jeni Peters and Paul Swainson of Future Fit on Wednesday afternoon.

As Future Fit is a leading qualifications provider for the industry, Jeni and Paul have identified that few personal trainers and gym operators provide nutrition support to supplement member’s training programmes. Yet, support with nutrition could help members achieve their goals faster and reach lasting success with behavioural changes. And most PT qualifications of level 3 and above include a nutrition element.

The pair shared a 3-step approach to incorporating nutrition into your gym or fitness club.

  1. Step 1 – incorporate it into your everyday promotions and in-club messaging. For example, you could run a nutrition challenge of the week much like you do with fitness challenges. Or put on seminars and workshops that could be free or paid for
  2. Step 2 – help your personal trainers to develop communication and coaching skills that can be applied to nutritional support to influence long-term changes in member eating habits
  3. Step 3 – offer a valuable product that incorporates nutrition. For example, an 8-week nutrition and weight management programme or bundle nutrition support into your PT packages. This will allow you to tap in to the opportunity that nutrition offers

What does this mean for gym owners & operators?

To tap into the opportunity that nutrition offers your members and club, look at ways you can help your trainers to incorporate this into their training programmes for members. That typically means offering support and advice rather than meal planning.

Support them in growing their confidence to coach members in this area. And then look at ways you can build nutrition focus services or embed it into programmes to monetise the opportunity it brings.

Hot take #6: Develop a niche to succeed as an independent

In the Getting The Industry In Shape For The Future panel on Thursday, Rob Handy who heads up the network for independent clubs, Independent Gyms UK & Ireland, discussed what the future looks like for this segment.

Rob highlighted that it’s more important than ever for clubs to develop a niche. This is key to standing out from local competitors and big chain gyms. And allows operators to deeply appeal to a specific demographic, building deeply connected communities and brand advocates.

To identify the right niche for your club, it’s vital to know what’s trending now and what looks set to trend in the future. Joining a network like Independent Gyms UK & Ireland that lets you network with peers across the country is a fantastic way to learn and get inspiration from others.

What does this mean for gym owners & operators?

Review the latest fitness and wellbeing trends (ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2023 is a great resource for this) and speak to other independent operators about what’s working. Then, look at the demographics of your local area and target market to identify which niche may work for your business.

Hot take #7: Differentiate through member experience

Member experience was a topic covered in many sessions during Elevate 2023. And that’s why we’re going to touch on it in both hot take 7 and 8!

On Thursday morning, the Business of Physical Activity theatre saw the Creating Spaces People Actually Want To Use panel take place. Hosted by Cheryl Hersley (Action Group), the panel included Rob Beale (Third Space), Euan Millar (Primal Strength), Andy Pickles (Pure Energy Go) and Duncan Jefford (Everyone Active).

The panel discussed how spaces can be curated in different ways to create a differentiated member experience, whether you are focused on a specific demographic or niche modality, or a wide variety of demographic groups.

The importance of flow when creating a space was explored. Thinking about how members move around the space, as well as the proximity of different types of activity from one another.

Rob talked about how luxury leader, Third Space, has created a brand experience through attention to detail and consistency across clubs. From lighting to flooring, to the entrance to amenities, every detail makes it clear to members that they are in a Third Space club.

From specialist music provider, Pure Energy Go, Andy discussed how music can be used to create experiences and build the right atmosphere across all areas of a club. Andy highlighted that many owners and operators don’t pay too much attention to music. Yet when curated well and thought out it can significantly enhance member experience across the various zones of a club.

When choosing music think both about the type of atmosphere you want to create in different places and at different times. And the demographics of your member base – you can use the reporting tools within your gym management software for this.

What does this mean for owners & operators?

Whatever the price point of your club, consider how you can build an atmosphere and environment that’s uniquely tailored to your brand. One that enhances member experience and ultimately differentiates you from the competition. If you are a premium, luxury club it’s imperative to pay attention to this area.

Hot take #8: Use tech to build personalised experiences at scale

Our final hot takeaway looks at another element of member experience – personalisation. During the Using Technology To Deliver Personalised Experiences session in the Technogym Education theatre, Martin Perry (Technogym) was joined by Dave Alstead (Xplor). The pair discussed the need for greater personalisation of experiences.

Consumers have come to expect personalisation powered by technology in all sorts of areas – from retail to healthcare. Yet, the fitness industry has been resistant to change and slow to adopt new technologies that will enhance the member experience.

To achieve personalisation at scale, owners and operators need to have the right technology in place. Martin shared that one way to achieve this is to work with partners like Technogym and Xplor Gym where deep integrations allow you to create data efficiencies and build a bigger picture of members. A picture that can be used to create personalised experiences both in your facilities and away.

What does this mean for owners & operators?

Look at the technology you use across your business and find ways to achieve greater personalisation for members that will drive great experiences. You can read more about our integration with Technogym here.

Bring on Elevate 2024!

Those are our top 8 hottest takeaways from the tradeshow of the summer, Elevate 2023, for gym owners and operators. Did we miss anything?

This year’s tradeshow has left us feeling motivated and inspired about the future of our industry. We’re excited to see what the rest of 2023 has to offer. And can’t wait to do it all again next year when Elevate returns on 12 and 13 June 2024!

See our gym management software in action – book a demo today.

Article by Xplor Gym

First published: 16 June 2023

Last updated: 02 February 2024