Merger and acquisition activity is this year’s major theme with Virgin Active now Britain’s second largest health club chain, after Fitness First. This follows Virgin’s acquisition of the 47 Holmes Place clubs, bringing the group total to 73. Simon Halabi, the property magnate recently acquired the 54 Esporta clubs for a sum in the region of £475 million and Whitbread received £925 million for its 69 David Lloyd clubs (£13.4 million per club).
Membership growth slows
Total membership of UK private sector clubs grew by just 1% in 2006 and remains static at 4.2 million, representing 7% of the adult population. Geographic accessibility is no longer a barrier as the recent National Audit of Fitness Consumers research reveals that 99% of the population is within a 20-minute drive of a health club or leisure centre. So, what will drive further growth in this £2.5 billion market?