Fitness center owners large and small have been among the most impacted businesses throughout the pandemic. They’ve had to close their doors for months and watch membership growth stagnate. Many had to close for good.
In recent weeks gyms across America have reopened. And while some people have been understandably reluctant to return, others are breathing a sigh of relief. As people head back to their local health clubs to work off their “Covid 15”, the fitness industry is getting back into shape.
Investors may want to get ahead of this resurgence by buying some of the stronger names in the fitness space. Let’s take a look at a few of the companies that are most likely to benefit from the fitness revival – Planet Fitness (NYSE:PLNT), Nautilus (NYSE:NLS), and Peloton (NASDAQ:PTON).
Does the Planet Fitness Model Still Work?
Planet Fitness is one of the fastest-growing fitness center businesses in the country. It has just over 2,000 locations and serves approximately 15.5 million members. Post-pandemic growth is expected to come from the continued expansion of the Planet Fitness footprint which the company estimates can reach at least 4,000 U.S. and 300 Canadian stores over the long term.
Planet Fitness has the endurance to achieve this buildout. The business model is proven. It appeals to the masses making people of all ages and fitness levels feel comfortable in the “judgment-free zone”. Its customer base is also not intimidated by the standard $10 monthly membership rate. As almost all locations are franchised this makes for a high margin, strong cash flow operation.
Like many big box gyms, Planet Fitness counts on a certain percentage of people to use the membership seldomly or not at all. Yet the high volume, low-cost model has delivered 53 straight quarters of positive same-store sales growth.
This streak is likely to continue as the company continues to cater to a broad demographic part of the population. It gets about a third of its new memberships from first-time gym-goers. With many people logging a lot of extra couch time during the pandemic, expect to see a big wave of membership demand orbit Planet Fitness as government restrictions are lifted.
Can Nautilus be a Major Player in the Fitness Space?
Nautilus has built up a nice portfolio of fitness brands over the years spreading beyond its namesake exercise equipment. It also owns Bowflex, Universal, Octane Fitness, and Schwinn.
What’s compelling about Nautilus as an investment is its focus on home fitness. The popularity of home fitness equipment has been through the roof during the pandemic. The company saw sales jump 94% in the second quarter.
It’s hard to get your hands-on free weights and exercise machines these days. Just ask Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS) which has had to hustle to keep up with demand this year.
Nautilus has a well-rounded distribution strategy. It sells through retail, commercial, international, and direct to consumer channels to get its products into homes worldwide. Even with gyms reopening, demand for home gyms, treadmills, and indoor cycling equipment is likely to remain strong. It may even accelerate once we get into the winter months (especially if the pandemic worsens during the fall flu season).
Looking beyond the near term, Nautilus has room to grow into the fitness space. A worldwide trend towards healthier lifestyles has been in the making for years. As consumers continue to focus on better eating and exercise habits, Nautilus’s strong market position should tack on some muscle.
Does Peloton Have More Upside?
Peloton has been a star during the pandemic, and it’s a star that can continue to rise. The company is a true disruptor in the fitness industry. It operates the world’s largest interactive fitness platform through its unique cycling, treadmill, and exercise class experience.
Peloton has amassed a huge connected fitness subscriber base that is approaching the one million mark. Investors concerned about the possibility that Peloton’s products will eventually become basement laundry racks, should note the company’s 93% subscriber retention rate.
The customer growth sprint resulted in 81% top-line growth through the March quarter when the pandemic was still at its early stages. With a full quarter of stay-at-home demand under its belt, expect the company to blow the market away with its June quarter report.
The company has had a challenging time fulfilling orders -and this is a good problem. Its loyal users are hooked on the convenience, fitness discipline variety, and social nature of the global Peloton community.
Peloton reports earnings on September 10th, and the quarter is likely to be monstrous. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) boosted its target price from $84 to $96 this week. The analyst expects net subscriber adds and EBITDA to come in well above consensus and guidance. According to the analyst, forward EBITDA of only $12 million is even more out of line with reality. He is forecasting the September quarter EBITDA to soar to $178 million.
Even as the pandemic subsides, workforces are expected to increasingly shift to at home arrangements. This opens to door to a wider audience for Peloton. Those who previously wouldn’t bother with bringing a gym bag to work and rushing to work out and shower before the boss gets back will have more time to get in a fitness class or bike ride before, during, or after the workday.
Looking down the road, Peloton’s growth opportunity in connected fitness is huge. Around 90 million gym members reside in the company’s markets. Its market is not limited to people that prefer to exercise only at home. Some people view the at-home fitness subscriptions as a complementary exercise solution for when there’s bad weather or they need to be home with the kids.
With opportunities to expand into new markets as well, Peloton has ample room to gain share in the $4.2 trillion global health and wellness industry.