And we’re back! Three years on - thanks COVID - the health and fitness defibrillator has jolted life back into the industry in what all attendees are celebrating a positive bounce back for the industry.
Sure, Dallas was a fun knees-up in 2021 and it was nice to sip Mojitos in Miami, as the deck chairs slowly started to fill up again…but San Diego marked a true barometer moment indicating business is back. Good things come to those who wait (and work hard, and remain relevant).
Ok, so the weather wasn’t the best, shades of gray and sheets of London rain (did you bring that with you Lucy and Matt?), to be honest, but there was plenty of SHINE inside the San Diego Convention Center.
For one, more than 8,000 people registered and if you weren’t one – don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. We did the miles of trade show aisles and many learning minutes in the sessions. We also had the opportunity to visit a number of boutique studios and clubs while in San Diego – including our good friends and clients, Barry's.
Here’s what we witnessed with Good Soul Hunting as we met with our existing network, many for the first time TRL, and new clients and candidates.
• The general vibe was that the industry is back (and that wasn't just Liz Clark and Good Soul Hunting’s very own Emma Barry on the turps dropping f-bombs).
• Battle of the SaaS. There was genuine innovation on show this year, with lots of software stack-ups, AI was everywhere, the bigger fit-tech players were doing some heavy lifting including Xplor, Mindbody and the newly rebranded ABC Fitness.
• When it came to talks and insights, one of the highlights for us was a heavyweight Financial Panel, with Rick Caro, Kurt Cross, Cooper McKee, Jon Canarick and Randy Konik offering a 360-degree look around the sector landscape. In a nutshell:
– The sector is still in recovery following the pandemic – and it’s made slower by turbulence in global macros
– US economy in flux, for reasons that the sector has little power over
– Economics improving but still not fully back
– Mental health needs remain at the top of the wellness agenda
– New builds are down and challenges remain ahead
– Hybrid work and behavior patterns are still settling in and are here to stay
– Brick-and-mortar remains a force despite the move to digital over the past three years
• AI is entering fitness in a big way. Among the great examples we saw at IHRSA was FitGrid.
• The spheres of healthcare and fitness continue to merge. Plenty of talk shows how exercise is increasingly becoming a part of preventative healthcare efforts.
• Boutiques and studios join the big box with Boutique Fitness Solutions Summit BFS@IHRSA amidst a general feeling of collaboration. Businesses were trading handshakes over subpoenas.
In other news, the red ropes were managed tighter this year. There were booth parties, “VIP-invite only” chats and networking events being arranged in more intimate settings with a select crowd of clients, members, and prospects.
There was also the 14th Annual IHRSA Women's Leadership Summit, which showcased the achievement of women in the industry and offered a networking opportunity. In a panel session, a brilliant line up of female leaders – including Gigliola Aycardi Batista, co-founder of Brazil’s Bodytech; Heather Ruff, co-founder of SPENGA Fitness; and Shadan Alsagri, deputy COO of Leejam Sports/Fitness Time – shared their experiences operating in a traditionally male industry.
The main take-home was that fitness remains the BEST industry in the world. We are retooling, partnering with adjacent businesses and gradually amalgamating with health to provide solutions in the greater wellness ecosphere. In short, we are getting smarter. See you in LA, March 4-9 in 2024!