A THIRD of businesses in the sports and fitness sector in Hampshire are at risk of failure in the next year, according to an insolvency trade body.

Around 35 per cent of county firms within the industry face a “heightened risk” of failing in the next 12 months, statistics have revealed.

It comes after the Daily Echo reported how Accolade Fitness Ltd closed its doors suddenly in June blaming financial problems.

Members of the gym, at Centurion Park in Southampton, turned up on June 27 to find doors locked and a note on the door thanking them for their “support over the previous 18 months”.

Insolvency trade body R3 has now produced statistics from finance data provider Bureau van Dijk which claim more than a third of businesses in the sector in Hampshire could also fail within a year.

Mike Pavitt, vice-chairman of R3’s Southern Regional Committee said cash-strapped consumers and high equipment finance and insurance costs were just a few of the factors contributing to a difficult trading environment for private Hampshire gyms and sports centres.

He said: “Anecdotally we understand that many gyms have seen something in the region of a 30 per cent dropoff in membership as people have cut out non-essentials.

“Add to this an annual drop-off in the summer ‘dry season’ when more exerciseseekers turn to outdoor pursuits and the advent of payas- you-go, unstaffed budget gyms and it becomes a fiercely competitive market.

“Gyms are often squeezed by rising business rates, high insurance costs and expensive space requirements, not to mention finance repayments on equipment.

“It’s therefore no wonder that many Hampshire gyms are struggling.

“Our advice to any businesses hearing the alarm bells of financial distress is to contact an insolvency practitioner at the earliest opportunity – they may be able to save the business, but if not they can at least limit the damage for those affected.”