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Resurgence and Debt: The Contrasting Faces of Poland’s Fitness Industry Post-Pandemic

BUSINESSResurgence and Debt: The Contrasting Faces of Poland's Fitness Industry Post-Pandemic

The fitness industry has had a difficult time, but it is now a thing of the past – the popularity of workouts is increasing intensely, and the number of gym and sports club users is higher than before the pandemic. However, this has not protected it from financial problems. In two years, the debt of this sector has more than doubled. According to the National Debt Register (KRD), it currently stands at PLN 33.1 million, although in February 2022 it was only PLN 15.4 million. Larger arrears than before burden both sports facilities and trainers.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the fitness industry hard, significantly limiting or even blocking its activity for a long time. However, data from eFitness, a provider of SaaS software, shows a clear revival and return of users to the gym. The number of customers returned to pre-pandemic levels in early 2022, and further increases occurred in the following months – an average of 2.5% per month. There were further increases in 2023, reaching 40% more entries than before the pandemic. However, objectively, the usage level of fitness services in Poland is one of the lowest in Europe, and subscription prices are very attractive in relation to average remuneration. For PLN 100-200 per month, you can buy a pass that gives a wide options to use the training rooms. The industry still has a significant potential for development.

Many factors contribute to this optimism, such as fragmented industry and high operating costs. The fitness sector is currently dealing with increasing labor and rent costs, and still high energy prices. Training equipment consumes a lot of electricity, instructor salaries are rising, and rental costs have also increased.

One of the characteristics of this market is its fragmentation. It’s estimated by Medicover that there are over 2,500 clubs in the market, with just 350 belonging to the two biggest players. Only about 20% of fitness clubs in Poland are franchise ones. These are generally large, with an area of 1,2-3,5 thousand square meters and located in good places. The rest are private gyms, personal training studios, yoga centers, pilates, etc.

When there are economic fluctuations, the owners of smaller clubs can not always cope with them. Of the 1,260 debtors in the fitness industry listed in the National Debt Register, which are gyms, sports clubs and trainers – 47% are sole proprietorships. Their unpaid obligations stand at over PLN 17 million. Whereas PLN 16.1 million is owed by commercial law companies, which account for 53% of debtors in the fitness industry.

The financial arrears of this sector currently amount to PLN 33.1 million, while two years ago they were half smaller, reaching PLN 15.4 million. The number of debtors also shot up from 277 two years ago to currently 1,260.

The pandemic, though fading from many sectors, still leaves its mark on the fitness sector. A report presented at the beginning of 2021 by the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, “The Health for a Billion Dollars – The Fitness Industry in Poland and its Importance for Spirit, Body and GDP”, indicated that the losses sustained by the industry only in 2020 will have to be recuperated for at least 5-7 years.

The shift of a large part of the market to the Internet is naturally predicted for many industries and was highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. Personalized online sessions and “door2door” services are gaining popularity, as people have limited time and would rather not spare an extra hour to get ready and travel to the fitness studio. They will also be replaced by workout sessions prepared by applications that can adjust exercises individually to customers’ needs and correct their accuracy during their execution.

The intense development of the market is also confirmed by forecasts included in the Global View Research report “Fitness Market Size and Trends Analysis by Distribution Channel”. The size of the global virtual fitness market in 2022 was valued at USD 16.4 billion and is expected to grow at around 27% until 2030.

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