Les Mills
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Les Mills
Health Club Management

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Health Club Management

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Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 11

To effectively target the deconditioned market, fitness centres must be placed at the heart of the local community

Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson,

Managing Director,

The Pulse Group


I was interested to read your article on introducing the deconditioned market to fitness in the October issue of Health Club Management (First Step to Fitness, p34).

Another way in which those who feel they aren’t ready for the gym can ease themselves back into exercise is by first re-familiarising themselves with fitness environments.

At Pulse we aim to do this by positioning our fitness centres as community hubs. We believe the centres should be a part of creating an active, healthy lifestyle whether people are coming to exercise or not. Many of our centres have big open meeting spaces and café areas that are open to the public – even if they’re not gym members.

Research into local demographics and latent demand is vital for creating leisure facilities that meet the overall needs of the community as well as the individual needs of anyone who wishes to use them.

For example, we‘re in the process of transforming Deben Pool in Woodbridge into a state-of-the-art leisure centre, and the final designs have been influenced by evidence gathered from sociodemographic research we carried out. We made the decision to include a thermal suite in the build project because of the multiple health benefits it will offer, ensuring the centre has an offering tailored to a deconditioned market. Members will be able to relax in the traditional wooden sauna, soothe their muscles in the steam room and cool down with an ice fountain to stimulate circulation, as well as the lymphatic and immune systems. This is just another example of how we provide local authority leisure facilities that rival those in the private sector.

“We believe the centres should be a part of creating an active, healthy lifestyle whether people are coming to exercise or not”

The deconditioned need to feel welcome in fitness centres
The deconditioned need to feel welcome in fitness centres

Leisure centres must respond to the latest consumer trends to withstand competition from the private sector

Darren Clifford
Darren Clifford
Darren Clifford,

Cabinet member for culture, leisure and tourism,

Lancaster City Council


The Active Leisure Trends article published in the October edition of Health Club Management (p56) highlighted how local authorities are redeveloping their leisure centres to take advantage of the latest consumer trends.

I couldn’t agree with its author, Dr Steve Mann, more. There are many benefits to be reaped from looking closely at the services leisure centres are providing and this is exactly why Lancaster City Council decided to invest £5million in the refurbishment of Salt Ayre Leisure Centre.

The centre first opened its doors in 1992 as a traditional ‘municipal’ sports centre, with a fitness suite following in 1997. However, the next 10 years saw a swift decline in the popularity of some of the more traditional sports such as badminton and netball.

As a result, there was a steep reduction in occupancy rates and the growth of competition from the private sector – all of which boasted new and better facilities – impacted on the fitness suite.

The phrase ‘innovate or die’ became extremely relevant as the centre entered a spiral of decline, with decreasing income, mounting costs and a falling customer base. Fortunately, we also recognised that there was a great opportunity on offer if we could tap into the latest trends.

By investing in the centre and providing leisure-based facilities wanted by young people and families, including a climbing wall and soft play, we could create an offer that would benefit the whole community.

But we couldn’t do this alone and needed the expertise of a development partner – Alliance Leisure.

This approach has already started to pay dividends with a 72 per cent increase in customer visits.

“We recognised that there was a great opportunity on offer if we could tap into the latest trends”

Family zones have boosted Salt Ayre’s visitor numbers
Family zones have boosted Salt Ayre’s visitor numbers
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