Charlie Graves started franchising in 2007 but has seen dramatic shifts in the past few years.PROVIDED BY ATHLETIC REPUBLIC

New Concepts Feature Health Not Taste

For decades food concepts have led the way in franchising in almost every category, yet a new sector has taken a commanding lead outpacing all others in number of new concepts.  According to a recent presentation by FranData at an industry conference, fitness concepts coming to the marketplace were the leading sector.  Most impressively in the data was not the launch of “another gym” but the breadth and diversity of concepts hitting the streets.  Having a place to work out has never been in short supply, and the vast majority of businesses are non-franchised local places, a tribute to the historical lack of uniqueness across the sector.  Wannabe franchisee appetite for healthier concepts has opened the floodgates to a plethora of innovation, segmentation and excitement in fitness franchise offerings.  Was this demand laying dormant for decades or is something else driving this unabated growth?

Fitness Concepts Better Aligned to Shifting Trends

While hard to find a franchise article that doesn’t reference “Millennials”, and at the risk of layering on, it seems clear from the evidence their penchant for achievement, team activities and all things digital, the emerging fitness concepts feature as aspects of these key traits.  Juxtapose that with aging baby boomers shifting from banging weights to increasing vitality and you have a perfect storm to extend the burgeoning boundaries in fitness.  It is also essential to note that the upheaval in the realm of all things marketing is like fresh gasoline on a campfire.  Between the gateposts of the local gym and the national fitness franchises languished unreachable segments of couch potatoes and weekend warriors.  Now, thanks to ever expanding social media, that allow even the obscurest of affinity groups easily form, if not thrive, a fresh and expanding marketplace has formed for new fitness concepts.  If you have a special way of achieving fitness, there is likely others with that same interest, and you can actually find each other on a social network near you.  Make enough noise and a budding entrepreneur will launch a franchise positioned just for you and your cohort.

Fitness Label Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story Anymore

“Fitness” just can’t contain the sector spectrum anymore, giving way to wellness, vitality and performance.  Athletic Republic, a concept known for training high performing athletics is seeing a surge in franchise sales and non-athlete membership.  CEO Charlie Graves has seen a significant shift in the make-up of his business model.  “The competition at the high school level for collegiate opportunities is just one of the segments that are exploding” he cites, “with $315 million in college scholarships awarded to our clients over the last five years”.  And he’s seeing his franchise development prospects shifting from clients and parents with direct experience with the concept to “individuals looking to bring a great business in fitness to their local community”.

Competition for scholarships is driving high school athletes to seek better fitness training.ATHLETIC REPUBLIC

At the other end of the spectrum are those with an interest in excelling in competitive sporting activities, driving new interest in memberships and franchises, and this interest crosses over the generational divide attracting aging athletes and Gen-Y’ers.