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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

People profile: Dirk Van Der FlierGym Plus Group: chair

As clubs with swimming pools and health and beauty facilities, the low cost model wasn’t going to work for us, but the clubs weren’t as high-end as David Lloyd clubs either. Our first intervention was to win over the staff and encourage them to act as though it was a high-end club

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 6
Dirk van der Flier
Dirk van der Flier

When did you first become involved with Gym Plus Group?
When the chain of eight clubs went into examinership in 2015, I was invited to come on board to try and turn the business around. Coming from the hotel industry and having previously been an active sportsman and rugby player, I approached the business from the customer’s point of view.

Gym Plus was an estate of mid-market clubs that had been a victim of the recession and the advent of low cost clubs. They had lost their identity, needed investment and were discounting in order to get memberships.

How did you go about turning the clubs around?
My first challenge was to find a model that could work. I teamed up with an old school friend, Sandra Dunne, who has years of operations experience, to determine how we could define the brand. It wasn’t the ‘what?’ that I was mainly interested in, it was more the ‘why?’ and the ‘how?’ I wanted to create a community and make the membership sticky.

As meaty clubs, with swimming pools and health and beauty facilities, the low cost model wasn’t going to work, but the clubs weren’t as high-end as David Lloyd clubs either. Our first intervention was to win over the staff and encourage them to act as though it was a high-end club.

We introduced four core values on which to base our culture and staff attitude: to be passionate, personal, proactive and positive. Over the past four years we’ve drilled this into the team, so they understand the member journey we’re trying to create from joining to the first visit and onwards, so people feel welcomed and supported in their goals.

Investments were made in improving facilities, back of house, in terms of equipment and aesthetically and we’ve also greatly increased the class programme. Added to this, we negotiated the business out of an existing franchise, which allowed us greater flexibility to develop.

The prices were raised to reflect the improved offering – memberships now range between €45 (£39, $50) and €59 (£51, $66) a month and people can choose whether to join one club, or have a flexible membership, allowing them to visit all eight. We work hard at customer engagement, as well as getting feedback.

Who are your members?
It is incredibly varied – we have the core following of 30- to 50-year-old professionals, but we also have a lot of families and older adults. Some of the clubs are in areas that attract a very corporate market. It can be interesting trying to encourage all the different types of members to merge together.

What has the impact been?
We’ve had a 50 per cent increase in membership over the past three years and reduced the attrition rate down to 4 to 5 per cent. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there. We have about another two years to carry on implementing our changes and then we might look to expand.

What exciting trends are you seeing in the industry?
Technology is a big thing at the moment, but I wonder how long it will go on for. It has its place and I like my Garmin, but sometimes I like to go fishing and leave my phone at home, or leave technology behind, take my shoes off and walk in the sand.

I was speaking to someone the other day who said that he didn’t want to be told that he’d only had four hours of good sleep when he thought he had had a good night, so I think there might be a bit of a backlash and a return to nature.

The core membership of Gym Plus is 30- to 50-year-old professionals
The core membership of Gym Plus is 30- to 50-year-old professionals
Facilities have been invested in and improved over the past four years
Facilities have been invested in and improved over the past four years
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/489918_193587.jpg
'Gym Plus was an estate of mid-market clubs that had been a victim of the recession and the advent of low-cost clubs. They had lost their identity.' – CEO Dirk Van Der Flier tells how he turned the brand around
Dirk van der Flier, Chair, Gym Plus Group,Dirk van der Flier, Gym Plus Group
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features

People profile: Dirk Van Der FlierGym Plus Group: chair

As clubs with swimming pools and health and beauty facilities, the low cost model wasn’t going to work for us, but the clubs weren’t as high-end as David Lloyd clubs either. Our first intervention was to win over the staff and encourage them to act as though it was a high-end club

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 6
Dirk van der Flier
Dirk van der Flier

When did you first become involved with Gym Plus Group?
When the chain of eight clubs went into examinership in 2015, I was invited to come on board to try and turn the business around. Coming from the hotel industry and having previously been an active sportsman and rugby player, I approached the business from the customer’s point of view.

Gym Plus was an estate of mid-market clubs that had been a victim of the recession and the advent of low cost clubs. They had lost their identity, needed investment and were discounting in order to get memberships.

How did you go about turning the clubs around?
My first challenge was to find a model that could work. I teamed up with an old school friend, Sandra Dunne, who has years of operations experience, to determine how we could define the brand. It wasn’t the ‘what?’ that I was mainly interested in, it was more the ‘why?’ and the ‘how?’ I wanted to create a community and make the membership sticky.

As meaty clubs, with swimming pools and health and beauty facilities, the low cost model wasn’t going to work, but the clubs weren’t as high-end as David Lloyd clubs either. Our first intervention was to win over the staff and encourage them to act as though it was a high-end club.

We introduced four core values on which to base our culture and staff attitude: to be passionate, personal, proactive and positive. Over the past four years we’ve drilled this into the team, so they understand the member journey we’re trying to create from joining to the first visit and onwards, so people feel welcomed and supported in their goals.

Investments were made in improving facilities, back of house, in terms of equipment and aesthetically and we’ve also greatly increased the class programme. Added to this, we negotiated the business out of an existing franchise, which allowed us greater flexibility to develop.

The prices were raised to reflect the improved offering – memberships now range between €45 (£39, $50) and €59 (£51, $66) a month and people can choose whether to join one club, or have a flexible membership, allowing them to visit all eight. We work hard at customer engagement, as well as getting feedback.

Who are your members?
It is incredibly varied – we have the core following of 30- to 50-year-old professionals, but we also have a lot of families and older adults. Some of the clubs are in areas that attract a very corporate market. It can be interesting trying to encourage all the different types of members to merge together.

What has the impact been?
We’ve had a 50 per cent increase in membership over the past three years and reduced the attrition rate down to 4 to 5 per cent. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there. We have about another two years to carry on implementing our changes and then we might look to expand.

What exciting trends are you seeing in the industry?
Technology is a big thing at the moment, but I wonder how long it will go on for. It has its place and I like my Garmin, but sometimes I like to go fishing and leave my phone at home, or leave technology behind, take my shoes off and walk in the sand.

I was speaking to someone the other day who said that he didn’t want to be told that he’d only had four hours of good sleep when he thought he had had a good night, so I think there might be a bit of a backlash and a return to nature.

The core membership of Gym Plus is 30- to 50-year-old professionals
The core membership of Gym Plus is 30- to 50-year-old professionals
Facilities have been invested in and improved over the past four years
Facilities have been invested in and improved over the past four years
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/489918_193587.jpg
'Gym Plus was an estate of mid-market clubs that had been a victim of the recession and the advent of low-cost clubs. They had lost their identity.' – CEO Dirk Van Der Flier tells how he turned the brand around
Dirk van der Flier, Chair, Gym Plus Group,Dirk van der Flier, Gym Plus Group
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Rockwell Group have unveiled designs for luxury hospitality and wellness amenities at Manhattan's 550 Madison ...
Latest News
The Gym Group is set to continue its fast pace of growth in 2020, with ...
Latest News
A new product aimed at the ageing population is combining wearable fitness tech with artificial ...
Latest News
A three-year research project will look to provide the physical activity industry with a better ...
Latest News
The latest edition of the highly-successful This Girl Can Campaign has been celebrated for its ...
Latest News
The increasing popularity of streaming services and wireless earbuds – along with the introduction of ...
Latest News
Stuart Broster, chief executive of Anytime Fitness UK, will step down from his role in ...
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Digme Fitness has acquired Another Space – the boutique studio arm of premium health club ...
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Job search
POST YOUR JOB
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Gympass expands in Ireland with flagship operator Gym Plus
Gympass, a leader in corporate fitness sales, has expanded its network to Ireland following a new partnership with Gym Plus.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Incorpore: Creating a fitter, happier and more productive workforce
Inactivity is described by The Department of Health as the ‘silent killer’ of our generation.
Video Gallery
How to use the MZ-Bodyscan
MyZone
The Best Product for the Best Clubs Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: TRIB3 International Ltd
First established in Sheffield in January 2016 TRIB3 is a bootcamp boutique studio designed to ...
Company profiles
Company profile: The JC Group
The JC Group is home to JC Facilities Management, JC Leisure Solutions, JC Water Services, ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Professional services
Deloitte UK: Professional services
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Spa software
ResortSuite: Spa software
Audio visual
Hutchison Technologies: Audio visual
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Management software
GymSales: Management software
Direct debit solutions
Debit Finance Collections: Direct debit solutions
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-23 Jan 2020
Harrogate Convention Centre, Harrogate, United Kingdom
Diary dates
28-30 Jan 2020
Ericsson Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
29-30 Jan 2020
Holiday Inn San Francisco-Golden Gateway, San Francisco, United States
Diary dates
20 Feb 2020
The Old Truman Brewery, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-25 Mar 2020
Hilton, Barcelona, Spain
Diary dates
25-26 Mar 2020
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
26-29 Mar 2020
The Winter Gardens Blackpool, Blackpool , United Kingdom
Diary dates
19-24 Apr 2020
tbc, Beijing, China
Diary dates
04 Jun 2020
Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel & Country Club, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
10-27 Jun 2020
tbc, Pinggu, China
Diary dates
13 Jun 2020
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
17-18 Jun 2020
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
30-31 Oct 2020
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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