Fitness First Buoyant about the Future

The hype seems to be building around Fitness First and it has been reinforced by their CEO Andy Cosslett who spoke to the Evening Standard recently and outlined their plans for reinvention and growth.

In particular, it’s great to see someone who hasn’t avoided the issues with reputation and contractual terms and is indicating that they will become more transparent, a trend that is surely welcome news to the general public.

There can be no doubt they have some serious convincing to do with historically poor image perceived by their target market but they’re making all the right noises and we’ve seen some substantial changes in the attitudes, strategies and recruitment already. And with some great people on board, they’re certainly giving themselves every opportunity to pull it off.

Phoenix from the flames? The next 18 months will be key but it will be a remarkable return to glory for a business many had written off.

Read the full interview: Evening Standard

More on this story: Leisure Management

Virgin move for DLL takeover

Two of the biggest brands in the health and fitness market are gearing up for a merger. As reported last week, premium health club operator David Lloyd Leisure have been courting the interests of several investors who could save the debt ridden-business.

It’s now become apparent, in one of the worst-kept secrets in the sector, that rival chain Virgin Active are eyeing a potential takeover bid. The deal would create a £2bn health and fitness empire, although any potential merger is likely to be subject to approval by the monopolies commission.

The big question for industry insiders is: What effect does this have on our industry? Some will be concerned about the diminishing choice of large employers within the industry and that the lack of competition will have a negative impact on salaries. There’s certainly been a trend for senior managers to leave the industry when major takeovers occur and the losses were substantial with the demise of Holmes Place and Esporta.

However, VA may have competition from an unlikely source over the next couple of years as Fitness First rises from the flames of their CVA agreement with a concerted departure from the budget end of the market.

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Major expansion plans for Fitness First

Some positive news for the health and fitness sector with one of it’s major players putting themselves back on the map with some substantial reinvestment.

Fitness First plans to invest £20million in its 85 British gyms, less than a year after it was on the brink of collapse.

The health club operator had slumped to a £672million loss last year as it struggled under a £550million debt burden.

The group was taken over by two US hedge funds, but not before creditors had to write off some debts and about 100 gyms were closed or sold to rivals.

Now the chain, headed by former InterContinental Hotels boss Andy Cosslett, is aiming to attract customers by introducing fitness technology, including ‘virtual’ personal trainers, air showers and hot yoga studios. It is getting rid of many fixed-weight machines in favour of free weights.

Initially, 11 clubs will be renovated with the rest to follow.

Martin Seibold, UK managing director, said: ‘High-calibre fitness staff, unique equipment and a more interactive member experience will put us at the forefront of the UK fitness industry.’

Last year a debt-for-equity swap saw its private equity backer BC Partners lose almost all of its investment and control was handed to two US hedge funds, Oaktree Capital Management and Marathon Capital.

The chain is now debt-free and is looking to expand once more in the UK and overseas, with about £100million earmarked for investment.

Souce: Daily Mail