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So you want to set up a gym?

Published on 17th January 2020 - Last update on 20th January 2020

Fitness is big business. There are more gyms and sports clubs in the UK than ever before. As many as 1 in every 7 people in the UK has a gym membership, and attends more or less regularly, with around 300,000 more signing up each year.

According to the 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report, health clubs and gyms in the UK now generate £4.7bn market revenue. People are willing to invest a great deal of their time and money on getting in shape.

“People don’t mind paying for a good gym. So that’s what you need to offer.”

With obesity levels rising, there’s a high demand for gyms and fitness facilities. The UK health and fitness industry is continuing to grow, and setting up a gym to cater for this demand could provide plenty of opportunities, especially if you can offer proven training skills, or have a sporting reputation. If you are an ex-olympian or a sporting personality it could be a big draw for your gym business – but even if you are simply a qualified trainer with skills honed in the forces or educational sector, there could be plenty of scope for you.

The big chains, with their big budgets, are popular but a smaller, more independent gym could offer a more personal service. You might be able to concentrate on a niche, such as a particular sport, and to attract a loyal clientele.

Even if you start small you have plenty of opportunities to grow your business, attract a wider range of members, and increase your turnover and profits, as you bring in new and better equipment and facilities.

But starting a gym is not without its challenges.

Running a gym is hard work

If you are interested in fitness, the chances are that you will be capable of working long hours and putting in the sometimes hard work of providing training on the gym floor. Unless you’re planning to hire a full range of staff from the outset, you’ll be spending a lot of your time on the premises – opening early and closing late. Most people who can afford to use your gym will have jobs, which means you’ll need to be open before they start in the mornings and long after they finish at night.

“You have to be open when people want to come in - if you’re not, they will be going to a gym that is”

14 hour days, 7 days a week are not uncommon – and you will have to fit in the cleaning along with providing training for your members.  

You will also have to work hard with people skills and marketing if you expect to attract and retain people.

Running a gym means rules and regulations

A gym is a potential minefield for injuries and accidents but there are no firm safety guidelines for the industry. You will have to conform to the standards of Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which cover both your members and your staff. If an accident occurred, the HSE would investigate.

However, the FIA’s code of practice details the minimum requirements for any fitness centre to be awarded their stamp of approval.

Under the code, all staff must have adequate safety training and there must be an appropriate number of first-aiders for the size of the club. All fitness instructors must be trained to the standards set by the Register of Exercise Professionals. All equipment must be kept in a safe condition and regularly inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, with all checks and maintenance documented, and records kept on site.

It’s also advisable that you get public liability insurance. As your business comes into contact with the public this will protect you if someone blames an injury or property damage on your business.

Buildings and contents insurance, while not a legal requirement, should also be another consideration.

The right location can be vital

Location is critical if you’re starting your own gym. You need a big potential pool of customers. 100,000 people within a ten-minute drive might be essential – and you need to look at what other gyms there are in the area.

Looking for ways to fund a start-up gym business?  See more about how we can help here

“People don’t want to have to drive for miles to do a workout. They want your gym on their doorstep.”

Some gym operators even suggest that the business has reached saturation point, and that the big players are in most of the areas where there’s a market already.

If you can find the right location – and one that is not already over-supplied with gyms – you will need to find the right premises. Somewhere central, close to public transport and commuting routes could be ideal, but you will also need ample parking. You will need to open long hours, so you should ensure that you are not too close to homes.

Finding a suitable building, such as a small school, to convert might provide the best solution, although a modern business park might also provide an ideal venue if it had the right transport links.

Opening a gym can be costly

Opening a gym will, inevitably, be expensive. A home gym can easily cost over £10,000, so the start-up costs for opening a commercial gym may be massive. Large group gyms frequently have £1million set-up budgets. It’s not just the gym equipment you need to fund, there will be there’s changing rooms, showers and, possibly, saunas to build and equip.

However, the more you invest, the more you can offer your members. You may not be able to charge £50 a month for your basic club when a bigger, established gym is also charging £50 - but offering the latest machines, a cafe and sauna.

“Location and costs are the most important factors to consider before you even think about acquiring a site to open a gym.”

Buying an existing gym

Buying an existing gym may involve a bigger upfront investment than starting from scratch, but it means reduced risks. You have a business that should be profitable from day one.  

The purchase price will reflect the kind of turnover and profits the business is currently generating. It should also take into account the size and condition of the premises, the existing membership and the potential for growth.

Writing a suitable business plan, outlining the current state of the business and your plans to grow it, is vital. You should involve your solicitor and accountant to get a professional view.

Why you need Rangewell to capitalise your gym business

If you have a sound business plan and relevant experience, you may find that there are many lenders who will be happy to lend to you when you want to open a gym.

But not all lenders will offer the most competitive terms. Looking for the most appropriate deal across the entire market takes time and expertise. We work with both traditional and alternative lenders,  and we know the lenders who can offer the rates and terms that are most appropriate for you.

However, with the right lender, you can find an understanding approach to your financial needs. At Rangewell we work across the sector and have found lenders who are able to give you the support you need.

If you are looking at setting up a gym, you can see more about the help we can offer here or call us now to get our experts working for you.


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Richard Mitchell

Richard Mitchell

Content writer
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