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.
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.
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.