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Health Club Management

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DW Fitness First reveals plans to becoming "UK’s largest sports participation brand"

Gym chain DW Fitness First has revealed its strategic vision to become the UK’s largest sports participation brand.

Formed following DW Fitness' takeover of Fitness First's 62-strong UK portfolio in September 2016, the business now boasts 120 gyms and 90 DW Sports-branded retail stores – a mix which the firm plans to utilise.

During 2018, the company will begin a programme of merging the gym and retail side of the business to create a "seamless customer experience".

A key focus will be to blur the boundaries between the leisure and retail elements and "bring the dynamism of the gym into stores" – while making sportswear shoppable in the gyms.

It will result in the creation of new concept DW Sports stores, with softer and less masculine designs and layouts, featuring interactive elements such as Run Labs - where customers can have their gait analysis taken.

In 2018 the group is also planning to launch ‘pop up’ style gym classes and workouts within their retail stores – a market first.

In total, the group plans capital investments at around 50 sites.

The strategy also includes raising the group's profile among consumers.

The business has secured a number of partnerships with national governing bodies of sport and has secured a deal to become the official retail and leisure partner of England Athletics, Welsh Athletics, Scottish Athletics and Athletics Northern Ireland.

It has also become the first ever channel sponsor of Sky Sports Mix, which will see DW Fitness First featured in ambassador-led TV Ads, social content, programme pre-roll and live activations.

A new e-commerce platform will also be launched, bringing the DW brands together by offering customers the opportunity to navigate between gym and store and to match their training regime to their performance-wear needs.

Speaking exclusively to Leisure Opportunities, CEO Martin Long said the changes will "revolutionise the business".

"We’re creating an end to end customer proposition which is unique to anything you’ll find elsewhere in the retail and gym industry," he said.

"With the combined strength of the group our customers are no longer seen as ‘gym members’ or ‘retail customers'. Our vision is to create a unique and seamless experience for everyone, whether you shop with us, train with us or ultimately both.

"Going forward, we will explore the opportunities to merge our retail and gym offerings and while we cannot physically provide the combined retail and gym experience in every DW location, taking our e-commerce offering to DW Fitness First clubs in London is really important.

"Last year we built the foundations; we launched a new leisure website, a new ecommerce platform and started to refurbish a number of our gyms, as well as opening new retail stores.

"We are receiving very positive customer feedback, and seeing great results, with both DW stores in Newcastle's Metrocentre and Derby being part of our top ten sites already.

"Across the Group we plan to invest in 50 sites this year, which is a massive uptake.

"Everywhere that we are making changes to DW Fitness First, we are seeing successful results and we are confident that our new model will continue to successfully take the business forward."

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