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UK fitness class sales soar despite demand for online sessions

Fitness classes have recorded a sharp rise in sales as British consumers return to the gym after lockdown despite demand for online sessions that experts say will persist after the coronavirus pandemic.

ClassPass, a company that provides access to fitness classes across the UK, said in the past week it had recorded a 600% week-on-week increase in the number of new members as lockdown measures were relaxed.

The business said that while live-stream reservations remained strong, two of its top London fitness studios, Blok and Digme, reported a tenfold increase in reservations since in-person classes relaunched, compared with digital-only reservations the previous week.

In other cities that have lifted restrictions, members who have returned are taking on 110% of their pre-Covid usage, Classpass said.

Despite higher than normal closure rates at gyms across the country during the pandemic, the fitness booking platform said its partner network had grown by 12% year on year in Europe, with thousands of businesses partnering with the company for the first time.

Chloe Ross, the vice-president of international at ClassPass, said: “In the short-term, many studios will continue to offer online classes but there is no doubt that studios and gyms are shifting focus back to in-person sessions.

“It’s likely that part of our user base will opt for a hybrid routine, doing some workouts at home and returning to studios part of the time, and that others will prefer to return to studios entirely – this increased flexibility is a good thing for establishing a long fitness habit and encouraging more people to get into fitness.”

It comes as consumers returned to gyms across central London as lockdown measures were relaxed. The gym network 1Rebel is due to launch an eighth London site at Oxford Circus in early June.

Sandy Macaskill, who runs Barry’s Bootcamp in the UK, said it added new classes at its St Paul’s studio because of rising demand.

“That’s very encouraging because we only opened our studio there a couple of weeks before the first lockdown, so it’s effectively still a brand new studio,” he said.

“I think we’re in a fortunate position that Barry’s is the kind of place our clients are happy to make a journey to.

“While online workouts are here to stay, I strongly suspect that we will see a mass return to working out in boutique studios like Barry’s because there is nothing that comes close online.”

Max Henderson, the founder of Hotpod Yoga, said the minute bookings went live the company started to sell out: “While we saw a strong recovery in attendance when we opened relatively briefly last year, this is a far bigger swing in momentum. Within the first week of bookings being open, we’d seen tens of thousands of people book classes.

“That’s a sure sign that people are ready and excited to come back … Against a backdrop of generally positive Covid news in the UK, where larger portions of the population are vaccinated every day, it’s great that this confidence is back – and quite rightly so.”