Integrating your micro, small or medium-sized Pilates business into the Wellness market seems to be a sensible plan for any Pilates instructor, Physio Therapist with Pilates interest or Pilates Studio Owner.  The first step to doing this is to understand the nature of the Wellness market and look at trends within it which you might decide to exploit with your business.

Integrating your micro, small or medium-sized Pilates business into the Wellness market seems to be a sensible plan for any Pilates instructor, Physio Therapist with Pilates interest or Pilates Studio Owner. 

What does ‘Wellness Market’ stand for?

For many of us, the ‘Wellness market’ it a term we have used time and time again but are we using it in the same way as the industry at large understands? When we are told by Mind Body Online the Global Wellness Market is worth £3.2 trillion (3,200,000,000,000,000,000 GBP!) what areas of the economy do they include as Wellness?  In their 2019 report, MINDBODY Wellness Index Understanding the State of the Wellness Industry in America the authors argue to define ‘Wellness’ you have to move beyond health and fitness.

They suggest 7 dimensions or components combine to create a definition of a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Social
  2. Physical
  3. Intellectual
  4. Occupational
  5. Environmental
  6. Spiritual
  7. Emotional

To identify customers who are focused on ‘Wellness’ or are sympathetic to spending their income on Wellness, we have to move beyond a pure focus on regular exercise and a healthy diet. It is now a more societal focus on how these customers want to care for themselves, work, conduct their lives, interact with others and interact with the planet.  We have to understand how these customers view and ultimately purchase products or services as an investment in their personal wellbeing.

The MINDBODY Index defines a “Wellness Business” as a business offering fitness, beauty or integrated health service.  However, is it these businesses which account for the £3.2 trillion value of the Global Market, or do we need to think wider? Looking at the Global Wellness Institute and their 2018 Publication “Global Wellness Economy Monitor October 2018” to understand better the business sectors which comprise this huge market.  

This delivered 10 sectors of Industry:

  1. Personal Care, Beauty & Anti-Ageing
  2. Healthy Eating, Nutrition and Weight Loss
  3. Wellness Tourism
  4. Fitness and Mind Body
  5. Preventive and Personalised medicine and Public Health
  6. Traditional and Complimentary Medicine
  7. Wellness Real Estate
  8. Spa Facilities
  9. Thermal / Mineral Springs
  10. Workplace Wellness

It showed all of these sectors have been growing since 2015 by at least 3.5% however the fastest five growth sectors were:

  1. Spa Facilities 9.9%
  2. Wellness Tourism  6.5%
  3. Wellness Real estate 6.4%
  4. Fitness and Mind Body 4.8%
  5. Workplace Wellness 4.8%

The 2018 report argues the 10 Wellness sectors above are increasingly less isolated as they converge into the homes, communities, work, and travel choices of customers who focus on Wellness and should be the target market for Pilates businesses wishing to focus their growth on the Wellness market.

It is a useful starter for a Pilates Studio’s to consider how they can deliver ‘Wellness’ focussed products and services where wellness focussed customers live, work and travel.  

It is relatively easy for most of us in the Pilates Industry to have a vision of a spa facility and also to be able to define Fitness and Mind-Body products but perhaps less easy to have a clear picture of Wellness Tourism, Wellness real estate and Workplace Wellness so lets spend a bit of time on each of these three.

Wellness Tourism

Research suggests Europe is the number one market for Wellness tourism with 292 million trips made in 2017 with wellness as the main purpose of travel  (by comparison, North America came second with 204 million trips). These trips may be long distance or local but differentiate from non-touristic events by their planned nature and the length of time spent during the defined visit on Wellness activities. Customers with a wellness focus when choosing a tourist destination not only consider their focal destination : i.e. Spa, health resort, Bootcamp, retreat – but are equally interested in the food and beverage on offer i.e. healthy eating, organic Cuisine, Carbon Footprint etc. as well as the Wellness heritage of products that they might purchase or wear on their visit, or places they might make subsidiary excursions to as an association to the main purpose.

Wellness Real Estate

In a 2018 report titled ‘Built Well to Live Well’ the Global Wellness Institute defined Wellness real estate as

“The construction of residential and commercial/institutional properties
that incorporate intentional wellness elements into their design, materials, and building as well
as their amenities, services, and/or programming”.

Within Europe, there is an increasing interest of wellness-focused consumers to seek local wellness experiences which can deliver the benefits of experiences consumed whilst engaged in tourism. This should be of particular interest to Pilates businesses who might be able to extend elements of Spa, Retreat, Excursion, Healthy Eating, Wellness products and clothing to their core business. Or, to look to integrate their business into local real estate projects and local housing developments, etc. to create a community wellness centre as opposed to Pilates studio or to combine business interests with others in the Wellness sector Beauticians, Hairdressers, Complimentary Therapists, Mind-Body and mainstream fitness practitioners to run a small personal business within a larger wellness focussed business.

Workplace Wellness

Companies are beginning to recognise the relatively small investment in the wellbeing of employees can be more than offset by savings in expenditures caused by employee illness, absenteeism and other factors which may be identified within an unwell workforce.

To take a share of the workplace wellness market, a Pilates business owner must recognise in many businesses employees are too focused on basic needs, such as paying the rent/mortgage, job stability, workplace safety, etc to see Wellness initiatives at work as a key advantage. However, there is a percentage of businesses often multinationals or SME’s in specific sectors where skilled workers are in demand from employers and there is competition to retain staff.  

Employers in these sectors are often motivated to build a wellness programme within the workplace to tackle issues of absenteeism, maximise staff retention, improve morale, improve recruitment success, and increase productivity within the workforce.  Whilst the USA market is by far the biggest spender on workplace wellness – driven by the fact staff healthcare costs are so heavily placed on the employer – the growth in investment in this sector is also growing in Europe.

The Next Five Years

As early as 1998 when Tony Blair had come to power (and I was medium-term business planning for a health club I joint owned at Oxford Airport) Tony Blair was making policy to try to encourage the formation and growth of ‘Wellness Centres’. I struggled at that time to grasp a picture of what a  ‘Wellness Centre’ might look like.  Even 10 years on when Nuffield hospitals acquired the Cannons Health Club chain with a vision to put doctors, dentists and other Healthcare into Health Club environments. I sat down as chairman of ProActive Health Ltd with senior management to discuss the consequences of a move of focus from fitness to wellness and there was a feeling that whilst management had a vision, they were well in advance of their customers’ demands and thought patterns.

But 10 years on and at the start of 2019 wellness customers worldwide have a much broader understanding of their needs and desires and a broad swell of largely middle-class customers are looking for destinations which can meet their wellness needs.

The Global Wellness Institute stated in 2018 :

 “there is no sign that this movement is slowing down. For the next five years, GWI projects robust growth in the five wellness sectors we track in detail (see table below), based on our own data sources and estimation models. We also believe the three sectors that represent the three core spheres of life will have the strongest growth – wellness real estate, workplace wellness, and wellness tourism – while the other wellness sectors will continue to grow as they support the integration of a wellness lifestyle into all aspects of our daily lives.”

Projected Annual Growth rates 2017-2022

Wellness Real Estate          8.0 %

Workplace Wellness           6.7 %

Workplace tourism             7.5 %

Spa Facilities                         6.4 %

The next article in this series will look more specifically at how Pilates businesses can look to grow their businesses within the Wellness market to take advantage of these sectors. Read it here.

About the Author
Chris Onslow has been in the Pilates industry since 1999. He has sold or distributed Balanced Body, STOTT-Pilates and Align-Pilates equipment in the UK and Europe and has owned Pilates Studios ranging from 600 square feet to 6000 square feet in size, with studios in Oxford, London, and Witney. Chris brought STOTT Pilates education to the UK in 2006 and now runs Mbodies Training Academy. He is a consultant for several Pilates studio operators and owners seeking to use his experience in the industry to ‘launch’, ‘develop’, and ‘refocus’ their Pilates focused companies.