Witness The Fitness II

May 12, 2020


Born - A change is gonna come


“…. Lord this couldn't last for very long” – Sam Cooke - 1964

So furlough’s stretching out to October, but lockdown is starting to unwind – however that looks!

It’s time to place our bets on which of the current shifts in personal fitness will stick as the world starts to warm itself back up. In the UK we’re unlikely to see gyms open until Winter, which will have meant more than 6 months for new fitness habits to form. Similarly, local travel around the world is going to become more of a solo affair, with cycling seen as a huge beneficiary.

Restrictions brought in to tackle the coronavirus pandemic have led to a huge drop in road traffic and a fall in air pollution of up to 60% in parts of the UK. Gov.UK is pushing £250m of funding towards retaining the health and wellbeing benefits of this enforced change to our lifestyles.

So – what are the payoffs from this changing scene? Where do we really think the commercial opportunities lie?

The first clues, as always, sit in the data. Garmin have conveniently published the amazing dataset they captured from Feb 1st through to April 14th. The data tracks all activity tied to their smartwatch population globally, and in almost every aspect sees a spike in activity. Some activities (indoor cycling) are registering between a 157% and 309% increase – amazingly in the main NOT offset by fewer outdoor activities (Germany registering growth in both indoor and outdoor cycling during lockdown).
Even in Italy, which has had the most stringent lockdown in Europe, there has been a 105% increase in fitness equipment activity, huge amounts of indoor running, and, amazingly, a 572% increase in floor climbing. Even with apartment-building lockdown the stairs have been a way of maximising exercise.

I remember a PT once telling me that it takes one month to form a new habit. With 6 months of this it is possible to say that many will have whole new lifestyles – new body shapes, new diets, new vacation ambitions, newly enhanced self-belief & self-worth.

Businesses that fully appreciate this transformation will thrive. Apparel is suffering right now, but how many people, with reduced incomes, will actually be shopping for new smaller-sized wardrobes come September? Once lockdown is eased my own thoughts are that the fit freaks will have plateaued (no team sports for example), but those “on a journey” will very possibly have accelerated their progress, and for those people life will have truly changed.

The trends that we are seeing that represent commercial opportunity are:

Home Gym – Garden Studios, weight rooms, remote weightlifting coaching, gym furniture (functional design with multiple uses), multi-purpose home flooring, rust-resistant outdoor weight cages & barbell sets.

Home fitness: Class Equipment, nutrition design & food delivery, virtual classes, more trainers, fitness clothing

Family fitness: Family virtual fitness subscriptions across disciplines (yoga, HiiT, football coaching etc), Neighbourhood fitness competitions and more community initiatives – look out for ParkCircuits alongside ParkRun.

Cycling (Worth the specific shout-out I think) – A unique case, active travel and the low-impact nature of the activity make this a prime mover, and so I can see opportunities across equipment brands (new and old), cycling apparel (work & active), retail of course (it’s been an impressive move into retail by Pure Electric https://www.pureelectric.com/), plus most importantly service & repair, especially for e-bikes. I’m aware of groups trying to form coordinated repair networks for e-bikes that synch with manufacturers warranties.

In short – none of the above really existed pre-lockdown, perhaps as embryonic ideas… but “A change is gonna come?” I’d argue it’s already arrived – who agrees?

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