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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

HCM People: Ed StanburyBLOK: CEO and co-founder

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled...

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 3
BLOK founder, 
Ed Stanbury, is
building a global lifestyle brand
BLOK founder, Ed Stanbury, is building a global lifestyle brand

How did BLOK come about?
I went to look at a warehouse in Upper Clapton for my property and construction company and fell in love with the Victorian tram depot next door. It had stunning original features – vaulted ceilings and cast iron pillars – but was in a serious state of disrepair so was standing vacant. I offered a low rent and the landlord accepted.

I’m quite entrepreneurial – if I see a deal I usually take it and then work out what to do with it afterwards. So I found that I had an amazing building, with around 2,500sq ft of left-over space. I started asking my friends for ideas and Max Oppenheim, a high end fashion photographer, suggested turning it into a film and photo shoot location.

At that time Max and I were doing a lot of boxing and yoga and my wife, Reema, had started going to class-based gyms. We began to think it would be more interesting to open a boutique studio, with boxing and yoga.

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled.

What was your design vision?
We really wanted to create a space which has a vibe to it, not just somewhere with loud pumping music and dark rooms. Our inspiration has come more from the restaurant and bar sector – where it’s a labour of love to design, build and curate an experience. I don’t believe we’ve really seen that in fitness yet.

Because of our location, we couldn’t rely on having the heavy footfall of a high density area, so we set out to create an environment where people would want to hang out together – somewhere our friends would like.

We designed as we went along, sometimes we had to take down walls which had just gone up. Still, it only took four months to complete and we opened on 1st February 2016.

Within three weeks of the launch, Wallpaper voted BLOK one of the 30 coolest gyms in the world and Harpers Bazaar said it was one of the best gyms in London. As we were so small, we were always full, which added to the reputation.

To cope with demand, we rented another unit and turned it into a dedicated boxing studio – we kept all the original features and just added a ring and hung the bags off the original beams – it looks very raw.

This studio has been a backdrop for major shoots with brands such as Adidas, Apple and Under Armour and is definitely one of our most iconic spaces.

I don’t want to overplay the art element, but at the same time it’s a key part of what makes us unique in the industry. It’s part of the overall experience, creating an environment where you want to spend time. To this end, we have partnered with amazing artists like Arran Gregory and Ben Cullen Williams, both of whom have permanent exhibitions and sculptures at our sites.

What were the main challenges of launching a gym?
Arguably, having zero knowledge of the industry was a challenge, but it did mean we were open to ideas. We overcame this by sourcing great teams and giving them autonomy to make decisions.

Many operators want to have complete consistency across the brand, but we want to be constantly evolving, changing and adapting, so we encourage our instructors to try new things and make the classes different every time.

You launched a third club, in Manchester, in September, how did this come about?
We were approached by amazing restaurant operators, Bistrotheque, to be the fitness operator in an exciting development they were involved in, in a Victorian warehouse in Manchester, and we said yes right away.

We’ve made a real effort to integrate with the local community and businesses and tell them what we’re doing in advance and have found that people have bought into the concept. From our point of view, the market in Manchester isn’t that much different to London.

We’ve found that people have just as much disposable income and as much desire for the experience. What’s been more of a challenge is recruiting instructors, as many didn’t have as much experience in group training, so we needed to provide extra training, but now we have a strong team that rival our London instructor base.

BLOK ran its first retreat this year, are there plans for more?
Yes, we’re planning to build it into a sizeable arm with at least 10 and up to 20 retreats each year. We might even look at having some permanent retreats. However, in 2020 we’ll be looking to open four new clubs in London, so we’ll only be running one or two retreats this year as we need to prioritise the core business.

We already announced the first retreat for 2020, which will be hosted at a former French cognac estate. Each morning starts with a run, followed by meditation. Every day there’s a yoga class and a fitness class and either a longer yoga or fitness workshop. This year we’ll have a nutritionist and chef who’ll be preparing mainly plant-based food designed to go with the training regime.

It’s all about community, building strength and skills-based progression. It’s not a bootcamp or about weight loss.

A week’s retreat is a great opportunity for our members to immerse themselves in an experience and make new connections and gives us another platform to engage with our community.

What other plans do you have?
We’re fundraising for expansion, including a move into digital fitness this year. This will allow us to take the brand beyond the studios to a wider audience who either live too far away or can’t afford classes. We have amazing spaces to use as backdrops, great videographers and more than 200 instructors, so we have the potential to create so much content.

BLOK – key facts

• There are currently three BLOK sites – Clapton, Shoreditch and Manchester, with plans to open four more in London in 2020.

• This high-end concept comprises studios for group exercise, changing rooms, reception area, art gallery and a café.

• The brand has been built on art, architecture and a highly designed environment, where people want to spend time.

• Classes are focused on building strength, skills and progression in order to keep clients coming back. There are strength and conditioning workouts, as well as yoga, barre, boxing and calisthenics.

• Each studio offers between 160 and 180 classes a week.

• Prices vary across the three sites, with a single class costing £15 in Manchester and Clapton and £17 in Shoreditch. Prices drop significantly if you commit for 12 months, with 10 class-a-month memberships costing just £84 in Manchester and Clapton and £100 in Shoreditch.

• Retreats and digital fitness are also in the pipeline.

If you would like to get each issue of HCM magazine sent direct to you for FREE, plus the weekly HCM ezine, sign up now!
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/2020/618988_524940.jpg
The CEO and co-founder of BLOK tells how he developed ‘one of the coolest gyms in the world’
Ed Stanbury, BLOK,boutique fitness
People
Our COVID-19 measures make our clubs significantly safer than any other public space
People
HCM people

Jo Smallwood

general manager, Oldham Leisure Centre
We saw the opportunity to initiate new partnerships with the Oldham Foodbank to help local residents during the COVID-19 crisis. We can’t serve our community in the way we would usually do, so we’ve moved resources to help where people need us most
People
HCM people

Ben Lucas

Founder, Flow Athletic, Sydney
We advise our Flow Athletes to complete classes at a ratio of one yoga class to one strength class to one cardio class. This combination has very positive effects
Features
Staff welfare
No-one’s sure how things will feel after a long break from the norm, but operators must be prepared for raised levels of anxiety and concern among staff and members
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Statistics
More than 65,000 people responded to a survey designed to gauge what members want and expect from the sector after lockdown, as Leisure-net’s Dave Monkhouse reports
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Partner briefing
BMF, the outdoor fitness franchise company co-owned by Bear Grylls, is launching a £1m initiative designed to offer financial support to PTs and exercise professionals in getting back to work after the lockdown
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Reopening
David Lloyd Leisure has launched a raft of outdoor classes, including an enhanced role for its Battlebox concept, as Liz Terry reports
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ukactive, 4global and partners have modelled the likely recovery from the lockdown. Ed Hubbard outlines the numbers
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The fitness industry has shown incredible flexibility during lockdown, pivoting to digital to keep people active. But as lockdowns end, we ask what impact the pandemic will have on facility provision
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Technogym has announced the launch of live streaming and on-demand classes. The new content will ...
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A number of gym operators are concerned that local lockdowns could come into effect in ...
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that gyms may be able to reopen in a ...
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Featured supplier: EGYM presents Corona Gym Solution, for the successful re-opening of fitness studios
Finally, the time has come: fitness and health facilities around the globe are gradually resuming operations.
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Incorpore and MoveGB have entered into a landmark partnership, combining the UK’s largest provider of corporate gym memberships with the nation’s biggest network of classes.
Video Gallery
Technogym mywellness app
Technogym
Improve your training experience. All your data in a single app. Read more
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Company profiles
Company profile: EMD UK
EMD UK is the national governing body for group exercise. Funded by Sport England, EMD ...
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Xn Leisure is a provider of cutting-edge health and fitness software, offering exceptional service to ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
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Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
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Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Fitness Software
FunXtion International BV: Fitness Software
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Lockers/interior design
Fitlockers: Lockers/interior design
Management software
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Derby City Council
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Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
27-30 Oct 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
Diary dates
03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates

features

HCM People: Ed StanburyBLOK: CEO and co-founder

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled...

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 3
BLOK founder, 
Ed Stanbury, is
building a global lifestyle brand
BLOK founder, Ed Stanbury, is building a global lifestyle brand

How did BLOK come about?
I went to look at a warehouse in Upper Clapton for my property and construction company and fell in love with the Victorian tram depot next door. It had stunning original features – vaulted ceilings and cast iron pillars – but was in a serious state of disrepair so was standing vacant. I offered a low rent and the landlord accepted.

I’m quite entrepreneurial – if I see a deal I usually take it and then work out what to do with it afterwards. So I found that I had an amazing building, with around 2,500sq ft of left-over space. I started asking my friends for ideas and Max Oppenheim, a high end fashion photographer, suggested turning it into a film and photo shoot location.

At that time Max and I were doing a lot of boxing and yoga and my wife, Reema, had started going to class-based gyms. We began to think it would be more interesting to open a boutique studio, with boxing and yoga.

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled.

What was your design vision?
We really wanted to create a space which has a vibe to it, not just somewhere with loud pumping music and dark rooms. Our inspiration has come more from the restaurant and bar sector – where it’s a labour of love to design, build and curate an experience. I don’t believe we’ve really seen that in fitness yet.

Because of our location, we couldn’t rely on having the heavy footfall of a high density area, so we set out to create an environment where people would want to hang out together – somewhere our friends would like.

We designed as we went along, sometimes we had to take down walls which had just gone up. Still, it only took four months to complete and we opened on 1st February 2016.

Within three weeks of the launch, Wallpaper voted BLOK one of the 30 coolest gyms in the world and Harpers Bazaar said it was one of the best gyms in London. As we were so small, we were always full, which added to the reputation.

To cope with demand, we rented another unit and turned it into a dedicated boxing studio – we kept all the original features and just added a ring and hung the bags off the original beams – it looks very raw.

This studio has been a backdrop for major shoots with brands such as Adidas, Apple and Under Armour and is definitely one of our most iconic spaces.

I don’t want to overplay the art element, but at the same time it’s a key part of what makes us unique in the industry. It’s part of the overall experience, creating an environment where you want to spend time. To this end, we have partnered with amazing artists like Arran Gregory and Ben Cullen Williams, both of whom have permanent exhibitions and sculptures at our sites.

What were the main challenges of launching a gym?
Arguably, having zero knowledge of the industry was a challenge, but it did mean we were open to ideas. We overcame this by sourcing great teams and giving them autonomy to make decisions.

Many operators want to have complete consistency across the brand, but we want to be constantly evolving, changing and adapting, so we encourage our instructors to try new things and make the classes different every time.

You launched a third club, in Manchester, in September, how did this come about?
We were approached by amazing restaurant operators, Bistrotheque, to be the fitness operator in an exciting development they were involved in, in a Victorian warehouse in Manchester, and we said yes right away.

We’ve made a real effort to integrate with the local community and businesses and tell them what we’re doing in advance and have found that people have bought into the concept. From our point of view, the market in Manchester isn’t that much different to London.

We’ve found that people have just as much disposable income and as much desire for the experience. What’s been more of a challenge is recruiting instructors, as many didn’t have as much experience in group training, so we needed to provide extra training, but now we have a strong team that rival our London instructor base.

BLOK ran its first retreat this year, are there plans for more?
Yes, we’re planning to build it into a sizeable arm with at least 10 and up to 20 retreats each year. We might even look at having some permanent retreats. However, in 2020 we’ll be looking to open four new clubs in London, so we’ll only be running one or two retreats this year as we need to prioritise the core business.

We already announced the first retreat for 2020, which will be hosted at a former French cognac estate. Each morning starts with a run, followed by meditation. Every day there’s a yoga class and a fitness class and either a longer yoga or fitness workshop. This year we’ll have a nutritionist and chef who’ll be preparing mainly plant-based food designed to go with the training regime.

It’s all about community, building strength and skills-based progression. It’s not a bootcamp or about weight loss.

A week’s retreat is a great opportunity for our members to immerse themselves in an experience and make new connections and gives us another platform to engage with our community.

What other plans do you have?
We’re fundraising for expansion, including a move into digital fitness this year. This will allow us to take the brand beyond the studios to a wider audience who either live too far away or can’t afford classes. We have amazing spaces to use as backdrops, great videographers and more than 200 instructors, so we have the potential to create so much content.

BLOK – key facts

• There are currently three BLOK sites – Clapton, Shoreditch and Manchester, with plans to open four more in London in 2020.

• This high-end concept comprises studios for group exercise, changing rooms, reception area, art gallery and a café.

• The brand has been built on art, architecture and a highly designed environment, where people want to spend time.

• Classes are focused on building strength, skills and progression in order to keep clients coming back. There are strength and conditioning workouts, as well as yoga, barre, boxing and calisthenics.

• Each studio offers between 160 and 180 classes a week.

• Prices vary across the three sites, with a single class costing £15 in Manchester and Clapton and £17 in Shoreditch. Prices drop significantly if you commit for 12 months, with 10 class-a-month memberships costing just £84 in Manchester and Clapton and £100 in Shoreditch.

• Retreats and digital fitness are also in the pipeline.

If you would like to get each issue of HCM magazine sent direct to you for FREE, plus the weekly HCM ezine, sign up now!
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/2020/618988_524940.jpg
The CEO and co-founder of BLOK tells how he developed ‘one of the coolest gyms in the world’
Ed Stanbury, BLOK,boutique fitness
Latest News
Fitness equipment firm Nautilus Inc is looking for a buyer for its commercial equipment brand ...
Latest News
Technogym has announced the launch of live streaming and on-demand classes. The new content will ...
Latest News
A number of gym operators are concerned that local lockdowns could come into effect in ...
Latest News
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that gyms may be able to reopen in a ...
Latest News
UK consumer confidence has improved significantly since the beginning of the lockdown, with a fifth ...
Latest News
The PGA Tour has recently bought 1,000 Whoop bands for its golfers, after PGA Tour ...
Latest News
ukactive has announced that Active Uprising and the National Summit are going digital as part ...
Latest News
Industry body ukactive has today (1 July) hosted a delegation of government and public health ...
Latest News
Health and fitness company Ingesport – which operates the GO fit chain of gyms in ...
Latest News
Mountainside Fitness in Arizona has filed a lawsuit against state's governor, Doug Ducey, after he ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: EGYM presents Corona Gym Solution, for the successful re-opening of fitness studios
Finally, the time has come: fitness and health facilities around the globe are gradually resuming operations.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Incorpore and MoveGB ink groundbreaking partnership to transform corporate wellness offering
Incorpore and MoveGB have entered into a landmark partnership, combining the UK’s largest provider of corporate gym memberships with the nation’s biggest network of classes.
Video Gallery
Technogym mywellness app
Technogym
Improve your training experience. All your data in a single app. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: EMD UK
EMD UK is the national governing body for group exercise. Funded by Sport England, EMD ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Xn Leisure Systems Ltd
Xn Leisure is a provider of cutting-edge health and fitness software, offering exceptional service to ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Fitness Software
FunXtion International BV: Fitness Software
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Lockers/interior design
Fitlockers: Lockers/interior design
Management software
Fisikal: Management software
Property & Tenders
Greywell, Hampshire
Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
27-30 Oct 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
Diary dates
03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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