With soccer ball. Portrait of kids that standing together and posing for the camera.

Children’s Activities Sector: A Snapshot

The children’s activities sector is relatively ‘new’ in terms of formally being recognised. Activity providers date back 50+ years, but in reality the sector has only really boomed since the 1990s. Today, while no official figures exist, it’s estimated that there are over 50,000 children’s activity providers in the UK operating a variety of types of business, service offering and specialism. Providers are mostly made up of independent operators, franchised or licensed teacher networks and not for profits.

Demand and supply

In some regions and localities in the UK it can be argued they have reached a tipping point whereby supply has outstripped the demand causing a micro-saturated market within that area. This causes highly competitive environments where providers are constantly under pressure to hold onto their customers or face the possibility of losing market share overnight. We anticipate that there will be a market correction in some regions and that the impact of Covid-19 will stunt the growth and ultimately prove fatal to many businesses within the sector. We expect up to 25% of providers will close their doors over the coming two years depending on the ongoing commercial challenges faced by Covid-19 and a likely recession.

Sector challenges

The sector faces some ongoing key challenges;

  • no recognised body to oversee quality control and new providers entering the sector
  • governmental confusion over our importance and impact in supporting child development, physical and mental health
  • gaps in professional support and knowledge across the sector
  • lack of franchise regulation monitoring licensed networks

There is long list of national issues connected to the industry.

However, the industry isn’t short of talented professionals. ICAP speaks daily with innovative, forward thinking individuals who have created excellent programmes, service offerings and brands. With this talent and leadership, the sector can evolve and come out of the current Covid-19 pandemic stronger for it.

Looking ahead

The role of activity providers is essential to society and we must ensure that as a collective we communicate this through our businesses, programmes and social impact. With collaboration and innovation the sector can make the choice to level up.

This can be done through sharing of best practice, ideation and creating a unified voice. Reports like this, with over 30 collaborators from across the UK is a starting point and one that we feel can act as a catalyst to positive change and optimism for what lies ahead.

By becoming a member of ICAP you’re joining a community of like-minded professionals and business owners in the children’s activity sector working towards excellence

Pip Wilkins

Pip Wilkins is the Chief Executive of the British Franchise Association (bfa). With 25 years’ experience in the franchise sector, Pip has worked her way up within the Association, gaining insight from all areas of the business and the franchise industry. She is well-known and highly regarded in franchising for her dedication and depth of knowledge. Pip regularly speaks at conferences and seminars both domestically and internationally, as well as writing on franchising matters for national, local and franchising trade press. Pip is also a regular judge for the annual bfa HSBC Franchise Awards, the Franchise Marketing Awards and Global Franchise Awards. Pip represents the UK at both the European Franchise Federation (EFF) and World Franchise Council (WFC). The bfa has grown to be one of the largest franchise associations in Europe, and one of the most successful associations in the world.

Theo Millward

Theo Millward is a graduate of Lancaster University with a BBA in Management. In 2016 Theo purchased UK swim school, Swimtime from the founders which teaches 20,000 children a week. Following a multi-award- winning digital transformation, during the global pandemic, Theo and his team founded Franscape, a saas that digitally transforms Franchise brands. FranScape won New Business of the Year at the UK Business Awards.

Andy Georgiou

Andy is the Founder of ICAP and a leading UK Franchise Business Consultant. He is fiercely committed to helping children’s activity providers build successful and profitable businesses. With qualifications in Business Management, Digital Media and Marketing, he has helped build, advise and grow leading 6 and 7 fiqure children’s education, sports and activity brands in the past 17 years.

Frank Sahlein

Frank has been active in the Children’s Activity Center industry as an athlete, coach, business owner, consultant and business broker. He is a native of San Mateo, California and graduated from San Jose State University in California (USA).
Frank was a pioneer of the Children’s Learning Opportunity Center concept from 1976 – 2016 at the Wings Center in Boise, Idaho (USA) – a blend of Sports Instruction, Arts, Education, Entertainment and Outreach programs.
As a business management innovator, Frank has delivered over 1,000 presentations for a variety of Children’s Activity Center industries such as gymnastics, swimming, cheerleading, dance, martial arts/ninja and child care/education.
3rd Level Consulting is a Business Development and Service Provider Partner for private industry companies, associations, and organizations in the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Panama.
Two-time recipient of the National Business Leader Award from USA Gymnastics, Frank is the author of “Building Your Business Potential” and “Designing Your Empowered Life”. He is the creator of the SmartEDGE™ Business Applications and Management Certification Courses. He is the co-founder of LEAP Learning and the MetaSpheres Corp, and is the founder and Executive Director of the International Association of Child Development Programs.
His passions include his beautiful wife Lourdes Gonzalez, family, friends, fitness training, transformational reading and travel.