26 Jun 2022 HCM Handbook
 

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Health Club Management Handbook - Facing the future

Franchise sector

Facing the future


Outdoor sessions, digital workouts and plans for expansion, Emma Canning speaks to some of the franchise companies about how they have responded to the pandemic disruption and what is coming down the tracks…

TRIB3 has hit the ground running post lockdown with its most successful pre-sell in Edinburgh Tribe3 / HOVE & CO PHOTOGRAPHY
F45 has ambitions to open 23,000 studios across the globe F45
énergie Fitness is pushing for growth this year énergie Fitness
Anytime welcomed thousands of new members this April Anytime Fitness

Out of all challenges come opportunities and Rise is a fledgling franchise company which has spotted an opportunity as a result of Covid.

A franchise model which incorporates indoor, outdoor and online elements, workout sessions have been designed for parks, open green spaces and other community areas, including indoor venues.

Rise isn’t burdened by pre-COVID thinking. The venture is the brainchild of a group of fitness professionals, James Cotton, Andy Kay, Mhairi Fitzpatrick and Carl Smith.

“Rise is brand new and created to fill an emerging gap in the fitness sector,” says Cotton. “This means we don’t have a load of locations to boast about or a million followers on Instagram, but it does mean early franchisees will get the pick of locations and the best deal to get into business quickly.”

Workouts are designed to build fitness and confidence while an online element is delivered via Rise’s own app, which features personalised daily advice, motivational comments, and access to digital workouts.

Not only is this new franchise looking to fill a gap, but the team are also prepared for whatever the future brings: “Rise needs to be in the heart of the community,” says Cotton. “Because it has outdoor, indoor, and digital provision, franchises will be able to operate through the next major disruptor like COVID-19 which comes along.”

Pivot to digital
For boutique studio operator, TRIB3, the last year has seen the company expand with new stores, new locations, new partners and a new franchise deal.

TRIB3 already has sites in the UK, Spain, Finland, and Russia and will open in the Netherlands next year, marking its sixth international territory. This was followed by the launch of the first site in Scotland, in May. Three more are in the pipeline for this year.

Edinburgh’s “industrial-luxe” store is one of the largest in the TRIB3 portfolio, with capacity to offer 45-minute HIIT workouts to 48 exercisers. Launched after lockdown 3.0, it was the company’s most successful ever pre-sell. TRIB3 has already remodelled studios to allow for a minimum of 1.5m spacing as it’s what people want.

While COVID didn’t halt the opening of new sites, it did change the way they operated. “We launched live streaming – TRIB3 Live – during lockdown,” says founder, Kevin Yates. “We mobilised the team and within four weeks we’d built a TRIB3 Live studio and platform, with a full production team.”

Omnichannel approach
Franchise investment business, Empowered Brands, is also looking to Europe for its next round of expansion. The plan is to accelerate the roll-out of its four key brands while also acquiring new businesses for the portfolio, which already includes énergie Fitness.

There are now more than 100 énergie gyms in the UK and Ireland, with more slated to open this year. énergie Fitness managing director, Neil King, says the company will continue to drive the growth of its high service, low-cost, small-box gyms as well as develop its omnichannel approach – indoor:outdoor:online.

“As a result of Covid, members will have enhanced expectations,” says King. “So it will be important for operators like us to maintain and improve our online offer. While most people will be happy to resume exercising indoors, a percentage will be nervous and so our outdoor fitness offering will complement what we do in club and online.”

Aggressive expansion
Part-owned by actor, Mark Wahlberg, Australian HIIT chain, F45 Training, is looking to grow rapidly and expand on its current number of 1,500 studios in 63 countries.

The franchised studio operator filed a notification to list on the New York Stock Exchange. While no date has been announced for the initial public offering (IPO), the filing is said to state plans to open up to 7,000 studios on the US and 23,000 globally.

The filing offers an insight into the effects of the pandemic. Between 1 February 2020 and 31 March 2021, a total of 15 F45 studios permanently closed, representing less than 1 per cent of its total number of studios. It also saw revenues decrease to $82.3m for 2020 compared to $92.7m for 2019.

Connecting with members
With more than 1000 clubs across the globe, the last year has provided time for Snap Fitness to reflect and assess its position in the increasingly competitive fitness market. During this time the company has conducted a global research project to further understand customer needs, as well as to reach out to the 85 per cent of the population who don’t have a gym membership.

“The pandemic made us all take a step back and evaluate our mental, physical, and emotional health, it’s no longer about how we look but how exercise makes us feel,” says CEO, Jon Cottam. “Technology has increased, gyms will need to adapt and offer holistic experiences which are more supportive and encouraging. We are investing heavily in technology, which will help our members stay motivated and focused on their fitness journeys, as well as provide us with the data to be truly supportive to both members and franchisees.”

Cottam says Snap will also be communicating to members that general activity is as important as focused workouts: “We believe all fitness is valid fitness, whether our members are working out at our clubs or at their houses, getting steps in while running errands or doing yoga in the park.”

Engaging content
Despite the many pressures of the last 18 months, there are signs things are moving forward once again. Anytime Fitness UK revealed April was its busiest month for new memberships since it began trading in the UK in 2010, reporting tens of thousands of new members.

This was achieved despite clubs in England opened 12 days into the month, those in Scotland and Northern Ireland opened in the last week of April and Welsh clubs remained closed entirely.

Anytime Fitness CEO, Neil Randall, says the company is still on track to exceed targets for new franchised territories and new club openings in 2021 and the pandemic gave the company the chance to accelerate other important projects, including the online member platform, AF Connect Online and the Panel of Health, a range of experts who provide engaging health content for members.

The last year has been difficult but the franchise companies are now looking optimistically to the future, responding to challenges and reframing their models in order to meet customer needs and broaden the reach.

Photo: énergie Fitness

“Members will have enhanced expectations. So it will be important for operators like us to maintain and improve our online offer.” – Neil King, énergie Fitness managing director

Photo: Snap Fitness

“The pandemic made us all take a step back and evaluate our mental, physical, and emotional health, it’s no longer about how we look but how exercise makes us feel” – Jon Cottam, Snap Fitness, CEO


Originally published in HCM handbook 2021 edition

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