ess First has taken another step on the treadmill back to financial health after announcing plans to complete its £220m club revamp programme one year ahead of plan.
The gym chain, which came close to administration in 2012, launched a three-year plan to win back customers by introducing new equipment, sprucing up changing rooms with gadgets such as cold air showers, removing turnstyles in the lobby and retraining staff.
It rebranded 156 clubs across the world in 2014 and plans to spend a further £86m refurbishing the final 228 by end of 2015, excluding Germany and its franchises.
“The company had gone through a really rough few years and the previous owners had effectively run out of cash,” chief exec Andy Cosslett told City A.M. ahead of the announcement today.
“All the cash the business was generating was going to payoff the interest they had on a very large debt. So when the Oaktree and other owners came in 2012 – and then I arrived – we were really able to then really start with the reinvestment,” he said.
Revenue at Fitness First’s revamped UK clubs has increased by four per cent year on year, with earnings up 10 per cent, the company announced today ahead of its full-year results in the coming weeks.
“In the past, you would be used to double digit declines in revenue and now we are positive in the ones we have rebranded. That is obviously hugely encouraging for us and we are seeing the same results everywhere across the world,” he said.
The former InterContinental Hotels boss said the group will also launch a new website this summer giving customers access to 1,000 training videos and training plans that they can customise and share with other members and their trainers.
New technology will also be able to give gym members an estimate of their “biological age” after completing a fitness and health assessment.