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Health Club Management

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Health Club Management

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Exclusive: Colin Waggett’s Third Space aiming to ignite premium health club sector

Third Space CEO Colin Waggett has laid out ambitions for his new health club chain to become the standard bearer in London’s “embryonic” premium health club sector.

In an exclusive interview with Health Club Management, the former Fitness First and Psycle chief outlined his belief that despite the recent boom of boutique studios, there is still huge potential at the premium end of London’s fitness market.

“Boutique is a word which is bandied around a lot, but just because a gym only does one thing doesn’t necessarily make it boutique,” said Waggett.

“I actually think it’s a very exciting time as there aren’t many operators offering a premium club experience. For me, the top end of the market in London is still very embryonic and this presents a great opportunity for us.”

Having recently relaunched Third Space Tower Bridge – formerly 37 Degrees – the chain is currently working with designers Sparcstudio and Goldstein Ween Architects to refurbish the entire Third Space estate, which includes clubs in Soho, Marylebone and the Reebok Sports Club in Canary Wharf.

Waggett wants the chain’s clubs to serve as a literal ‘third space’ between the home and the office, where well-heeled members (paying between £125 to £150 per month) can enjoy a 360 degree wellness journey.

“People always ask ‘what’s your USP?’ but I’d say we’re like your favourite restaurant in the sense that we don’t just offer one particular specialty, but rather a fantastic all-round experience,” said Waggett.

“We’re fusing best-in-class fitness equipment with an extensive group exercise programme and stylish design. In terms of inspiration, we’ve looked at the functional fitness influences in the US boutique space and sought to combine that with the type of chic modern design you find in London’s clubs, restaurants and boutique hotels.”

In terms of Third Space clubs, Waggett says he is more focused on quality over quantity, but would like to sign a new site roughly every 18 months.

The team are currently working on plans for a brand new build in the Islington Square development, which Waggett says will be the biggest new club (47,000sq ft) to be built in central London for a number of years. A cohort of designers and architects are overseeing concept development for the site, which will feature a restaurant, spa, fitness facilities, plus a family aspect to reflect the needs of the local demographic.

With strong financial backing from its private equity owner Encore Capital, Third Space is sufficiently resourced to make good on its expansion plans, however Waggett says the biggest challenge will be bringing in the right calibre of staff to deliver the full experience. To this end, the company is currently on the hunt for ‘rock star’ trainers and is also creating a Third Space academy where it will nurture talent and set group standards, with a view to potentially providing formalised qualifications.

Meanwhile, another aspect of the group’s expansion will be the launch in April of its boutique club offshoot Another Space. The first site in Covent Garden’s Seven Dials district will feature three studios offering group cycling, yoga and HIIT, while the company hopes to open up to five such sites over the next three years.

The decision to create a brand offshoot is an intriguing move and follows in the footsteps of recent boutique hubs from Fitness First (BEAT) and Pure Gym (Pure Ride). But whereas Pure Ride has enjoyed a solid start to life, Fitness First recently shuttered its BEAT club, so it will be interesting to see how Another Space fares in the competitive pay-as-you go boutique market, although Waggett’s prior experience of founding Psycle – plus the synergies between Third Space and Another Space – will no doubt offer an advantage.

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Third Space CEO Colin Waggett has laid out ambitions for his new health club chain to become the standard bearer in London’s “embryonic” premium health club sector.
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