Ross Kirton, Head of UK Leisure Agency at Colliers International said: “This afternoon’s announcement will be very welcome news to gym operators, landlords, full-time and freelance gym employees and customers alike.
“The UK Government was facing an unenviable dilemma – whilst the prospect of a second wave of infections is very real, the damage which is being done by the continued closure is also an unavoidable truth, with potential for long-term damage to tens of thousands of businesses and the prospect of mass unemployment a very real threat. On the one hand the scientific community has been arguing that a prolonged lockdown is the only way of suppressing the virus, whilst the counterargument that allowing increased levels of social interaction and travel will improve the mental wellbeing and financial health of the population cannot be ignored.
“The benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle to help against coronavirus are well documented, as are the links between mental health and fitness so no doubt, despite some initial caution, we anticipate the sector to see a strong revival, albeit with gyms and fitness clubs ensuring social distancing measures are adhered to.
“Social distancing is workable in these types of environments; capacities at certain clubs or classes being limited to begin with. However, with the majority of people still continuing to work from home, this may lead to gyms witnessing more off-peak attendance so this will need to be carefully managed by operators.
“Some customers will be naturally cautious, or for the short-term, they may look to continue with their home workouts so this will help with initial social distancing measures at gyms and fitness clubs.
“The cut in VAT to five per cent until January that was announced for pubs, bars and restaurants by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Budget this week could also have been applied to the gym and health sector. Not only would this have been beneficial from a fitness perspective but if the industry was able to incentivise people to come back to using gym facilities, it would provide much needed support and security for the millions of young people working in the sector.
“Of most concern still is the payment of rent, and the landlord/tenant relationship between property owners and operators. Tenants are, in most cases, not able to pay rent whilst they are not trading, which is therefore also putting landlord businesses under financial pressure. The UK Government is encouraging both parties to find workable solutions and still the need to resolve this issue is certainly the single biggest immediate threat to large parts of the hospitality and leisure sectors.”