The credit crunch is starting to affect all parts of the health and fitness sector. We reported earlier in the year that Sports Direct, the UK fitness retail store, has seen a large reduction in profits. We have also seen evidence that people are cancelling their gym memberships to exercise at home – or worse, give up exercise altogether. And now there are reports that the whole foods (organic food) market is in decline. This year London’s largest organic supermarket has lost over £10 million, as shoppers are opting for cheaper products. Whole Foods Market is a US owned company. Analysts fear that it cannot survive the credit crunch, as people turn their backs on food which is really perceived as a luxury by most, rather than a healthier option.
Analysts have said that the financial results are both disappointing and very worrying, not just for this store, but for the entire health food sector. It has been argued that whole food is really nothing more than a clever marketing trick. The food itself may not actually be any better than standard mass produced food. It is just stylishly packaged and marketed to appeal to wealthy individuals that have larger disposable incomes to spend on their weekly groceries than the average person. There is an even element of snobbery regarding the purchasing of such food, as those that shop in whole food stores feel that they are experiencing a piece of luxury that most cannot afford. Well, now they have obviously decided that they too cannot afford it!
There is no doubt that the food sold by specialist whole food companies is very healthy, and good for you, but it is questionable if it is really healthier that the same food types purchased in superstores like Tesco, Asda and Morrisons. There is a real risk that the whole organic movement will suffer over forthcoming years as the global economic downturn continues.
And which other companies will follow suit? Sports retail, organic foods – will the expensive commercial gyms and exclusive golf clubs start to suffer? With the job losses in the financial sector, it is hard to believe that some health clubs and golf clubs will not be affected. Many clubs based in the business districts of cities rely on corporate memberships, subsidised by banks and other financial institutions, to make their profits. As the credit crunch causes more City jobs to be lost, gyms will see a decline in revenues.