Fitness/ClassPass: return of in-person workouts will boost fitness booking app

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Virtual workouts were expected to be one of the pandemic era lifestyle changes that endured. Exercising at home, using a smartphone to log in to classes, is cheaper and less time-consuming than attending a gym. Amid the closure of chains such as Flywheel, online exercise became a phenomenon.

Yet demand has run out of puff. In a survey of more than 4,500 people in the US and UK, RunRepeat found that online fitness class subscriptions remain the least popular way to get fit. Sharing close confines in spin classes and yoga studios is back in vogue.

The return of in-person classes will be a boost to $1bn exercise class subscription platform ClassPass. The pandemic cut the New York company’s revenue by 95 per cent in the space of two weeks last year. This week, ClassPass was purchased by Mindbody, a Californian company that makes software for gyms and spas so users can book online. There are significant opportunities for cross-selling. Mindbody can market its software to gyms that use ClassPass while ClassPass can add more spa treatments to its app.

Mindbody was taken private by Vista Equity Partners in 2019 in a $1.9bn deal that valued the company at just over six times annual sales. The newly combined company is a strong contender for an initial public offering, a bet on the post-pandemic return to normality.

Workouts at home using equipment remain popular. But makers of expensive equipment stand to lose out as gym memberships are dusted off.

Peloton’s stationary exercise bikes were in high demand during sedentary lockdowns, making it one of the best-performing stocks of 2020. But shares are down 41 per cent so far this year. Revenue growth is expected to slow from almost 100 per cent in 2020 to 33 per cent in 2022.

Worse, the company was forced to order a safety recall of treadmills in May following the death of a child. Its reputation is unlikely to recover. The pandemic was a turning point. But not everything has changed for good.

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