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"A cataclysmic period": sports halls worried about their future


The obstacle course continues for professionals. The health crisis is pushing the sector to question its model.

A month after the start of the school year, the sports halls cannot see the end of the tunnel.

Traditionally, these activities based on the subscription economic model rely on the months of January and September to garner as many new practitioners as possible.

The weeks that had just passed were therefore closely scrutinized by the profession, which hoped to see the French return en masse.

Read also Sports halls sink into the crisis

A few weeks later, the results are bitter: if the demand is there, it is not enough to put the accounts back on track. “

This demand comes with a negative stock of customers lost during the health crisis. We therefore remain below the level of 2019

”, explains to


the boss of the Franceactive-FNEAPL union, Thierry Doll. The trend is therefore positive, but the progression curve is not steep enough, while some professionals have lost up to 40% of their members since March 2020. The finding is "

not exciting

", confirms the general delegate of the Union sport & cycle, Virgile Caillet. While some activities like fitness and yoga fall apart, others like rock climbing or indoor soccer are "

in a favorable recovery


The larger networks, with stronger backs, are doing better than the independents.


The summer was very hard, with sales really well below the pre-crisis period, but the start of the September is going very well

", indicates the co-founder of Neoness, Céline Rémy Wisselink.


It's been a cataclysmic period for everyone [...] but the trend is good,

" confirms Keep Cool CEO David Amiouni.

But even in these groups whose theaters dot France, the client file remains less full than before the crisis.

Overall, "

the figures are not at all those we hoped for,

" laments Virgile Caillet.

The theaters' obstacle course continues: with the health crisis, subscription cancellations have multiplied and epidemic rebounds have made customers cautious about the idea of ​​making a long-term commitment. The health pass, introduced during the summer, did not help. “

It was a disaster, because all the activities, except climbing, welcome a rather young audience, that is to say the people furthest from vaccination. The pass was extremely detrimental to us at the start,

”emphasizes Virgile Caillet. “

The pass was difficult. The 10% of members taken back in June, at the reopening, were immediately lost with the pass

», Sighs David Amiouni.

As the injections multiplied, this summer, this burden has eased, but it remains heavy in some territories, such as in the Mediterranean, less vaccinated.

Changing demand

Shaken by the health crisis, the sector is wondering about its future. The customer base will not return to normal for six to eighteen months, depending on the situation and "

the crisis will fracture the market

", summarizes David Amiouni. Assuming that sports lovers will want to return to theaters, companies are engaged in a "

commercial battle

" to seduce the 40% or so of members who returned their card during the crisis, notes Thierry Doll. Everyone therefore has their promotional offer, ranging from free months to a “


” offer, at Keep Cool, including a sports bag as a gift.

For some, the model of long-term engagement must become more flexible and agile, like a monthly Netflix subscription, which can be canceled at will. “

The way in which the practitioner manages his consumption will evolve

, underlines Thierry Doll

. The Covid crisis has shown that something else must be invented. People are cautious, they want to be freer,

”he considers. "

The model will have to be questioned, at a minimum

", abounds Virgile Caillet. Keep Cool responds to these concerns with its freemium formula, when Neoness already made a shift towards a no-obligation subscription several years ago.

Another change, teleworking and post-containment population movements could transform demand.

Rooms formerly frequented by an assiduous public risk losing members, while other territories could gain subscribers in search of greenery having left the cities.

The cards will be reshuffled, the geographical location of the clubs will be decisive

, points out Céline Rémy Wisselink


Retailers with a narrow territorial network will benefit from this


Enough to reinforce the desire of groups to expand their presence across France.

The shadow of future restructuring and mergers

In the longer term, the question of a reorganization of the offer will arise. Professionals see coming a "

risk of consolidation for small independent rooms

", which will be back to the wall in a few months, when the end of public aid will be felt. "

There is a real subject on the small rooms, today in a much more difficult economic situation than the networks

", worries a representative. “

It is possible that things will move, that independents join networks. The market is mature, there may be a logic of merger, of repurchase

”, concedes one at Neoness. “

We are vigilant. A reorganization of the market is possible

”, declares Union Sport & Cycle.

Businesses also keep an eye out for labor shortages. If Neoness and Keep Cool are spared, the sector as a whole has seen leave "

between 25% and 30% of employees

" during the crisis, according to Franceactive-FNEAPL. Disgusted by months of uncertainty and stoppage of activity, the workers, often self-employed, set up on their own or left this field. "

It's a skill leak

," insists Thierry Doll, joined by Virgile Caillet, who adds that "

the health pass may have made the situation worse

". After the crisis, as in other sectors, the issue of working conditions and wages will arise, to strengthen the attractiveness of these professions. "

Inevitably, we will have discussions on these topics,

”admits a representative.

A "

public health issue


On a more optimistic front, the crisis can also constitute an opportunity, underline some actors: the role of sport as a vector of well-being has been put forward, including by the executive.


In the world of tomorrow, services will be the only thing that can be consumed without limit, and well-being will be part of it

", analyzes the co-founder of Neoness.

While waiting for these promising tomorrows, professionals are counting on the support of the State to pass the course.

A meeting with Bercy is scheduled for November to take stock of aid.


They must be extended until December 31,

" considers FranceActive-FNEAPL.

The profession also suggests lowering the VAT weighing on its activities, arguing that it is a "

public health issue


At the same time as a welcome boost: because, without support, "

companies will dive

", warns Virgile Caillet.

Source: lefigaro

All business articles on 2021-10-12

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