Leisure trends: The UK Leisure Industry in 2019

It’s that time of year again when we take a look at what might be big in the UK leisure industry for the year ahead. What do you think will be big in during 2019 and beyond?

There are few major sporting events in 2019. It will be at least another year until the summer Olympics in Tokyo, and a whole four years before we can recreate this summer’s football fever thanks to the World Cup (although watch out for the UEFA Nations League in the summer). That’s not to say that the leisure industry will suffer too much. There’s always demand for good leisure experiences, as our client bookings have shown throughout all of 2018.

But what do we think will be the big leisure trends in 2019?

The UK Leisure Industry in 2019

Boutique and low-cost operators thriving

Boutiques and low-cost operators continue to dominate health & fitness sector growth. Many would have been forgiven for predicting the end of the low-cost boom but there doesn’t seem to be any let up in the expansion of these budget chains although several leading operators have opted for acquisition rather than new build lately. It would seem that the public just can’t get enough of the no-frills approach.

And whilst budget operators thrive, is the boutique market being driven partially by their success? If the low-cost model is appealing to the majority of gym-goers, then there has to be a place for the more discerning enthusiast. Those that shun the mass-market environment and gravitate towards a HIIT type experience facility have endless choice of specialist gyms, each with their own strongly branded identity. And the big plus for the boutiques is the floor space they can operate within, many requiring just a couple of thousand square feet. And perhaps, that in itself is the real recipe for success. Whilst the larger gyms have been battling it out for industrial space for 5000 members, these smaller clubs have been sneakily picking off small retail units as high street shops continue to struggle.

Whilst many industry insiders will say that these boutiques go after a very different market from the mainstream and don’t compete for members, it speaks volumes that so many operators are now revamping their group exercise offerings, particularly in the premium sector to lure the enthusiasts back to a full service model.

Our predictions for 2019 are that boutique market will continue to grow, fuelled by property availability and relatively cheap, owner/operator franchise models being attractive to investors. We expect to see wilder, bolder and more tech driven businesses that will really disrupt the market.

Wearable and fitness tech

Something that we have said is coming for a long time is the development of wearable fitness tech. So far, wearable tech has been fairly simple – such as an activity tracker like Fitbit – or too complex to be in anything more than in beta testing. But developments over the last couple of years especially has meant that a bigger rollout of more sophisticated wearable teach will be available to the mass market very soon, and if not in 2019, not long after.

Simple wearable tech is still popular though, and the trend will be to make that tech even more simple, less intrusive, and more a part of our bodies. For example, Motiv is releasing its fitness ring in the UK. This is smaller and easier to wear than the sometimes clumsy, clunky watches and heart rate monitors. You could almost forget you are wearing it. Could the next step be under-skin microchips?

motiv wearable fitness rings© https://mymotiv.com/

Safety tech is also making strides. We have talked before about drones being used to facilitate water rescues. While drones have not completely replaced lifeguards to a large extent, it will almost be certain, particularly for beach lifeguards to not only have first aid and rescue skills but also be adept at using drone technology. It’s a good job us leisure professionals are not afraid to acquire new skills!

Have a look at this drone in action https://uk.reuters.com/video/2018/11/13/beach-drone-drops-life-jackets-to-strugg?videoId=482641268

But could the big trend in 2019 be thanks to open data? With better sharing of data between health and fitness providers, more opportunities are opened up for people to meet their fitness goals using a variety of leisure providers. Whether this is through the provision of an app which helps customers find fitness classes to suit them, or through the sharing of very specific health data to tailor fitness programmes, open data is a step in the right direction.

How about using the ultimate personal data – your DNA – to tailor your health plan to your exacting physical needs? Sounds creepy, but it’s happening!

Fitness moves to the high street

Retail has clearly suffered from the threat of the collapse of major brands and closures of stores and where retail is moving out, leisure is moving in. It’s been the case for some time in many towns and cities that where the high street has been in decline for retailers, the coffee shops and restaurants have moved in. Blamed on more people shopping online, larger retail brands are having to reinvent themselves and embrace experiential shopping and more place-based activities.

More retailers, particularly larger department stores with huge floor spaces to make use of, are partnering with fitness providers and opening their space up for consumers who want more from a place than simply to buy more stuff. This autumn saw Debenhams opening an in-store gym in their Sutton branch, and 2019 will see the same in their Manchester and Bristol stores.

Be prepared to see more high street names becoming more diverse over the next few years.

In fact, mixed-use facilities are going to be a more common sight away from the traditional high street too. Wherever there is good accessibility, expect to see new spaces and places which house complementary activities, such as this new leisure centre in Exeter city centre. And yes, it’s likely that any new buildings will be put up with consideration for energy efficiency. After all, energy isn’t expected to get any cheaper!

Leisure trends 2019

Photo by juan pablo rodriguez on Unsplash

More inclusive leisure activities

In the past, health campaigns have concentrated on under-represented groups such as women. Do you remember the This Girl Can campaign? Now, the focus is turning to other groups such as disabled people and to different age groups such as the over 55s.

More funding is going to be given to sports which encourage inclusivity. If your fitness business has not really embraced disabled leisure activities yet 2019 could be a good time to start!

Younger consumers are not being left out though and there is a real drive for getting people of all ages to form an exercise habit. More and more facilities are catering to a family audience, such as Cloud Twelve.

Check out this hotel and spa in Nottinghamshire who are really going for the youth market.

(c) Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa

© Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa

Engaging with children earlier is a key tool in the fight against obesity not only in childhood but in adulthood too. Expect more campaigns and health and fitness education in schools across the UK.

More diversity in leisure provision

Interestingly, the ambition for creating industry-changing offerings has been reflected in the entertainments sector where the emphasis on an exciting visitor experience is being prioritised over large nightclub venues. This year we’ve seen darts, golf, table tennis and video gaming appearing regularly in our news feeds and we expect that to continue into 2019. How wacky, can they get? Only time will tell.

Health food trends

And what about health foods? Well, there is certainly increased awareness of the harm that can be done by some foods and changing legislation, such as the ‘sugar tax’ has made us think more about making more sensible choices. 2019 will be no exception. Expect more of the same.

Here are some ideas as to what could be big in healthy eating in the US very soon and making their way over the pond to the UK.

….And finally, what about Brexit?

Spa and Beauty has had a tumultuous year. Some extravagant new spas have been announced but the industry has been hit heavily by the lack of qualified staff available. As per our prediction last year, the looming shadow of Brexit seems to be deterring European workers from making the trip to the UK. As a knock-on effect, salaries are continuing to rise as businesses compete for staff.

If you want help navigating the waters of the leisure industry in 2019, get in touch!

Leisure Industry: Predictions for 2018

Leisure industry trends 2018 Part 2 (1)

As the door closes on 2017, another one opens on 2018. A fresh new year can bring new challenges, and also new opportunities.

We spoke to 4 Leisure Recruitment MD Jean Wing Hing to see what he thinks is going to be the big news in the UK leisure industry in 2018.

What do you think is going to be the damp squib of 2018?

Jean: We are starting to get wind of more and more trampoline parks shutting down. Word on the street is that prices can’t get any more competitive and there’s not enough room for everyone. As operators struggle to diversify their offering, we’re predicting much flatter growth for this sector in the coming months.

What developments in the gym sector?

Jean: The health and fitness industry has seen an explosion of so-called boutique health clubs over the last couple of years. These are typically smaller clubs with quite distinct identities that cater for the discerning gym goer who shies away from the big commercial gyms chains. They were seen as quirky, trendy retreats that only those in the know were members of. But the boutique chains have aggressively been rolling out sites and, together with them being ideally sized for franchisees to pick up, the boutique market has become somewhat mainstream, dare we say.

So what’s next? Specialist seems to be the new boutique. Not only does a gym brand have to be cool, individual and all of the above, but it now has to deliver a specialized service. They provide products that are slick and well-packaged yet still appeal to the masses. Have a look at 9Round and Barry’s Bootcamp as great examples of brands doing things in a new way.

What’s happening in the world of wearable tech, a topic we’ve been talking about for years?

Jean: One of the biggest trends we’re seeing at the moment is gym companies really embracing the tech available on the market and looking to integrate with personal devices. Soon it’s not unfeasible that we will we all be connected to our personal trainers 24/7. Whether that happens in 2018 is unlikely, but it’s coming.

What about the spa sector?

Jean: There have been many developments in the spa sector this last couple of years and I think that mindfulness will be the hot topic in 2018. With the trends moving from beauty treatments to wellness treatments recently, the next step is offer treatments which are more holistic and incorporate mental health as well as physical health and wellness. Industry leaders are already starting to develop an offering which is more in the mindfulness sphere than ever before.

Thanks, Jean. We will look out for these in the leisure industry in 2018.

To see a review of our 2017 and what 2018 may have in store for us here at 4 Leisure Recruitment, have a look at our last blog post.

2017 in review: and leisure recruitment predictions for 2018

2017 has been another funny old year. Maybe not quite as odd as 2016, but nonetheless we’ve had Trump, cyber attacks, hurricanes and storms, attacks that have torn us apart and brought us together, and moved two steps closer (and one step back) to leaving the EU.

While it’s not quite been as eventful in the world of leisure recruitment, we have had our moments, and there’s certainly a lot to look back on, and also to look forward to.

Leisure industry trends 2018

Migration and the leisure workforce

In January, we reported on the news that authorities were taking a harder line on employing illegal workers, and that several nail salons had been targeted and found to be employing foreign workers illegally. https://www.4leisurerecruitment.co.uk/blog/2017/01/

Whether you think this is a good thing or not, it is likely that a shortage of talent will continue into 2018 as fewer people come to the UK to work from the EU, and some EU nationals that are here start to leave the UK. It will continue to be a challenge to colleges to create the work-ready skilled workers that the beauty industry needs, and to employers to recruit and retain the home-grown talent that they need to meet demand.

The continued success of outdoor swimming

In February, we talked about the renaissance of lidos across the UK. https://www.4leisurerecruitment.co.uk/blog/2017/02/

An upturn in interest in outdoor swimming, whether in natural pools or in lidos has been a big story in 2016 and 2017. The trend shows no signs of slowing down in 2018 with reports of increased investment in outdoor swimming facilities, and in the lifeguard staff needed for the facilities to operate. Lifeguarding will continue to be an in-demand job in 2018 and there will continue to be plenty of work kicking around for NPLQ qualified lifeguards both on a permanent and temporary basis.

If you’re interested in being a lifeguard, or in hiring them from us, please do meet our lifeguard recruitment team

Start of the conference season

In March, we again attended Professional Beauty London where Jean sat on the panel for the education seminar. Again, Jean talked about the importance of producing beauty graduates who can do the basics well, and on the role of beauty employers in CPD. https://www.4leisurerecruitment.co.uk/blog/spaandbeauty-news/professional-beauty-london-2017/

In 2018, we hope that colleges take on board what the industry is asking for in terms of core skills and work experience and rise up to the challenge of playing their part in producing the workers of tomorrow.

Discrimination and tightening employment laws

In May, we were discussing the issue of employee discrimination in job interviews and how employers can land themselves in trouble if they inadvertently, or otherwise, ask something that could be considered discriminatory towards job candidates. It’s a tricky area but if you’re planning on interviewing your own candidates, then it’s something you should gen up on now.

It’s unlikely that employment discrimination legislation will change much in 2018 – if anything, it will get tighter. Have a read of our advice at https://www.4leisurerecruitment.co.uk/blog/2017/05/

Crazy summer season

In the summer, our thoughts again turned to lifeguards. With the annual rise in demand for qualified lifeguards, we discussed why anyone would have any reason to be a lifeguard. In fact, we found more than one good reason. Have a read at https://www.4leisurerecruitment.co.uk/blog/healthandfitness-news/why-would-you-want-to-be-a-lifeguard/

Are you going to need lifeguards in Summer 2018? If so, our best advice is to get in touch with us earlier in the year. In our experience, our lifeguards get booked up quick.

Recruitment scams and schemes

In the autumn, we talked about recruitment scams. They are everywhere and you need to be careful. Even schemes which are not scams could cost you if you don’t know what the deal is. For a run-down of scams, umbrella schemes, and what to watch out for, see https://www.4leisurerecruitment.co.uk/blog/2017/10/

Happy Birthday to us!

This year, we celebrated our 15 year anniversary. We had cake. We may or may not have had a celebratory pint or three. What we did do was grill founders Jean and James on their journey so far. You can read what they had to say at https://www.4leisurerecruitment.co.uk/blog/4leisure-news/4-leisure-recruitment-is-15-years-old/

Prediction for 2018 – we will turn 16 years old. And probably have more beer and cake. Happy Birthday to us!

If 2017 is anything to go by, 2018 is looking to be another year of growth for us. We have a record number of leisure jobs to recruit for – have a look at our website to find the perfect leisure job for you. 

If you’re looking for a new job in 2018, get in touch with us. Please pick up the phone and give us a call, or email us your CV in confidence to info@4LeisureRecruitment.co.uk  

The leisure industry in 2017

As we take a quick look back over the leisure industry in 2016 there has been some huge changes from where we started the year to where it is ending. Thank you to all of those people who have been involved this last twelve months – we very much look forward to spending 2017 with you too!

Leisure trends in 2016 and for 2017

The UK leisure recruitment industry

At 4Leisure Recruitment, we have seen our team grow and are excited about the recruitment industry for 2017. Despite the pinch that the living wage is bringing to many employers, the leisure sector is showing great growth and strength.  It is impossible to ignore the political changes that have taken place in 2016 so it has to be acknowledged that effects on the leisure industry have been felt as part of the global shift in politics.

However, the UK leisure industry seems to have benefited from a lift in the number of people using the services available. The spa industry particularly has seen a boost as people seem to be pampering themselves at home instead of booking holidays abroad. We seem as a nation to be spending more time and money on ourselves which is great for the industry and leisure recruiters alike!

gym industry trends

Record gym membership

In May it was announced that gym and health club memberships had reached a record high. Awareness about personal health, fitness and wellness seems to be ever increasing. At government level plans are a-foot to merge the need to improve the general health of the population as a whole and tapping into the resources of local leisure centres and trying to capture inactive groups which can only lead to more leisure jobs, more gyms and more pools!


uk swimming trends

A dive in the popularity of swimming

However, swimming has seen a dip in the number of folks doing it on a regular basis, with reports that regular swimming participation has seen a drop of around 24%


But it may be that the reasons behind this include the very fact that there are so many other activities on offer that people are not exercising less in the pool, but more everywhere. 2016 has seen 564 new publicly accessible pools open.

We also have not experienced a drop in demand for qualified lifeguards, so it remains to be seen if swimming participation will have a major long-term impact on the leisure industry as a whole.

trends in fitness tech

Leisure tech

One trend we can’t ignore from 2016 is that of ever advancing technology. David Lloyd Leisure has had a major virtual fitness rollout and we predict 2017 will see much more of the same. There is no escaping the explosion of tech in the leisure sector, so don’t try to escape it. If you were one of the millions of users of Pokemon Go earlier this year then you certainly embraced the cultural shift to blending tech and exercise. We predict much more of the same next year and eagerly await the next big release.

Olympics and Paralympics 2016

Major events

2016 has seen the leisure sector grow at a faster rate than retail, possibly helped along by some huge events in the sporting world, including the Olympics and the Paralympics. A truly spectacular event with some brilliant performances both by teams and individuals. In case you missed our earlier blog post about some other sporting events you really don’t want to miss, take a look at where you need to go if you are looking for something to start a training schedule for in the new year. https://www.4leisurerecruitment.co.uk/blog/4leisure-news/five-not-to-be-missed-sporting-events-this-summer/

We very much look forward to seeing the rise of skateboarding next year too as one of the newest additions to the Olympic line up. It will be good to see new facilities and enthusiasts finding a wider platform.

Beauty retail staff

High demand for beauty and spa

2016 has seen us experience high demand for passionate beauty retail staff. It seems that more of us are willing to pay for good quality beauty products and we have been providing retail staff to help customers looking for advice on what to purchase.

The spa industry in general is taking advantage of the demand for beauty products and treatments – in November, Pure Gym launched a membership-style salon concept. We look forward to seeing this roll out further in 2017.


The rise of trampoline parks

Bouncing onward?

Trampoline venues have had a huge rise in popularity in the last 18 months. They seem to be popping up all over the place but the market is already becoming very aggressive with some already starting to close. 2017 is likely to see these businesses striving for diversification in the battle to compete. Some of our clients are already introducing facilities such as climbing walls, laser tag and “ninja warrior” style courses. As they evolve, these will provide more credible venues for the corporate market. There are plenty of businesses now focused keenly on the corporate event market and the ability to provide a full entertainments package with much more comprehensive catering options may be the difference between those that survive and those that don’t.

What else do we envisage 2017 bringing for us – well after some of the events of this year I think it is safe to say next year will be a complete adventure- one we look forward to taking with you.