The third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia has neutralized the success of the fitness industry, which has just begun to recover. In June, club revenues were down 40% from pre-crisis 2019. Businesses have to deal with the loss of not only customers, but also personnel: some of the employees refuse to work because of the need to get vaccinated, and some – because of the loss of income. Under these conditions, another 15% of fitness clubs may terminate their activities in Russia.
In June, the revenues of fitness clubs on average across the country decreased by 40% compared to the same period last year, Elena Silina, President of the National Fitness Community (NSF), told Kommersant. According to her, the drop in sales is taking place against the backdrop of an increase in the incidence of COVID-19: the market is affected by both additional restrictive measures and customer concerns. “People are freezing club cards and not renewing their subscriptions,” the expert explains. Olga Kiseleva, President of the Association of Fitness Operators (AOFI), has no doubts that the wave of the pandemic will lead to a decrease in demand for club services, the negative effect has been felt since May. The expert estimates the drop in traffic in the clubs at 40-50%.
With the gradual lifting of restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the fitness industry has shown an overall positive recovery in performance. According to AOFI, in the first quarter, the industry’s revenue was only 10% below the same value in 2019. But now, according to Elena Silina, the industry has actually returned to the level of October last year.
Organizational difficulties for business were also added by the requirements of the authorities in many regions for mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 for a significant proportion of the staff. For example, in Moscow before August 15, 60% of employees must complete the full course. Olga Kiseleva calls the process feasible, but costly for business. Although the general director of the 5 element club, Yuri Lim, notes that many line employees demonstrate a rather categorical approach. “We are literally ready to quit their job and leave the capital, we expect a problem with qualified personnel in the field of administration and sales in the near future,” he says. This process can be complicated against the background of a general outflow of personnel and a decrease in the number of people employed in the industry. Ms Silina explains that coaches whose income has decreased due to the reduction in the number of clients are switching to an independent mode of work. “And with the departure of each specialist, the club may lose a few more clients, this is a vicious circle,” she explains.
Olga Kiseleva does not expect any positive dynamics in the indicators of fitness clubs in the traditionally low summer season, the magnitude of the fall will depend on the severity of restrictive measures in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. The most difficult region at the moment, the expert calls Bashkiria, where clients cannot visit clubs without a certificate of vaccination or a fresh result of PCR testing. According to the estimates of the regional office of AOFI, after the corresponding decree of the head of the republic on June 18, sales of club cards here decreased by 61%. “For many people, fitness is not an essential service, this measure does not motivate them to get vaccinated,” comments Elena Shadrina, head of the AOFI office in Bashkiria.
Although in some regions the picture looks much better. For example, Konstantin Chernitsov, managing partner of the System of Fitness Professionals (develops World Class fitness clubs in Saratov), has not yet noticed a decrease in the flow, noting that the traffic is supported by clients who have recovered from COVID-19. The owner of the Ural chain Powerhouse Gym Anton Girenko-Kotsuba estimates the drop in sales relative to 2019 by 15%. “The next two months of summer are clearly going to be tough,” he says. Most of all, the expert fears the “Bashkir scenario” for the industry. “We will definitely not be able to force clients to vaccinate and we will get a terrible negative,” Mr. Girenko-Kotsuba is sure. Elena Silina explains that usually in the summer the clubs work at the expense of the reserves formed in the spring, but this year there was no opportunity to accumulate them. “Against this background, about 15% of the players in the fitness industry can leave the market,” the expert sums up.