GET HCM
magazine
Sign up for the FREE digital edition of HCM magazine and also get the HCM ezine and breaking news email alerts.
Not right now, thanksclose this window
Questex/McLean Events (Spatec/SIBEC)
Questex/McLean Events (Spatec/SIBEC)
Questex/McLean Events (Spatec/SIBEC)
Follow Health Club Management on Twitter Like Health Club Management on Facebook Join the discussion with Health Club Management on LinkedIn Follow Health Club Management on Instagram
UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

New opening: Evolution not revolution

Jim Graham, chief operating officer of The Gym Group, speaks to Alison Bledge about how the low-cost pioneer is continuing its journey of innovation and success following a strategic review of its proposition

By Alison Bledge | Published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 6
Graham says The Gym Group is constantly evolving to stay ahead of ‘increasingly homogenous competition’
Graham says The Gym Group is constantly evolving to stay ahead of ‘increasingly homogenous competition’
We fit less equipment in our gyms initially and then carry out research on member behaviour and usage before completing the fit-out in a way that’s most relevant

The Gym Group transformed the fitness sector when it opened the UK’s first low-cost gym in Hounslow in 2008, providing affordable, high quality, 24/7 fitness facilities without fixed contracts. Within the first three years it experienced rapid growth, with 19 further gyms opening, and now has 59 sites in its portfolio – a figure that’s set to rise to 80 by the end of 2015.

Seven years on, the industry has become crowded with operators keen to duplicate the model and emulate its success. However, says Jim Graham, Gym Group COO: “We’re constantly evolving to stay ahead of increasingly homogenous competition. Our strategy is based on an intrinsic understanding of members, their needs, usage and attitude to our product and service.

We continually review our product, physical environment and marketing execution to ensure we’re giving members the very best offering.”

That review has, most recently, involved working with integrated communications agency Dinosaur to develop a new brand proposition. The resulting concept – ‘Find Your Fit’ – has been developed to appeal to real people with achievable fitness goals, aiming to inspire them to make the commitment to making exercise a part of their lives.

Graham explains: “We launched the rebrand nationwide in January 2015 with a new creative campaign celebrating the pride of real people in overcoming the barriers to getting fit.

“It’s a different creative direction for us: more human, personable and engaging. But it’s also deliberately different from typical health club advertising that tends to be bland, samey and predictable.”

Fresh interiors
To ensure consistency across the business, The Gym is also redesigning the interior of its gyms to ensure they align with the new brand position. True to its low-cost heritage, the gyms will remain functional and cost-effective in execution, but there’s a push towards making the space more convivial, more engaging at a human level and a more intuitive space to navigate and use.

Working with brand and interior design agency StartJG, the redesign introduces subtle adjustments to the environment, including a wider palette of colours, new materials and revisions to the layout and navigation.

“This is more an evolution than a revolution,” explains Graham. “Having built up an enormous amount of brand equity with 1.5 million members who love what we do, we were keen to stay true to our product offering, but we felt the time was right to build more personality and warmth into our brand and environment. It’s positive, confident with more than a hint of quirky humour.”

However, acknowledging the prohibitively high costs associated with a comprehensive rebrand and refurbishment of a large estate, the decision was taken to develop the new brand in such a way that it could happily co-exist with the old for a lengthy transition period.

Graham explains: “The Gym totally refurbishes its facilities on a five-year refresh cycle, and this provides the ideal mechanism to update and reconfigure the mature estate over time. Four gyms will be refreshed this year, including The Gym Brighton, with the programme gathering pace in 2016.

“Of course the 25 gyms being opened in 2015 will sport the new look, with The Gym Bracknell being the first to showcase the new brand and signage when it opened in January 2015, and the brand new Charing Cross gym – 200 yards from Nelson’s Column in central London – being the first to feature aspects of the new interior design.”

Being customer-led
Graham continues: “We know that members in different locations have fundamentally contrasting profiles, with often quite radically diverse demands. The Gym is very much a customer-led business. We’re also hyper-local, using data and insight to define what equipment we fit and where we fit it.

“We’re fitting less equipment in our gyms initially and carrying out detailed research on member behaviour and usage before completing the extensive fit-out in a way that’s most relevant to the profile of members we’ve attracted.

“For example, high demand for cardio equipment at The Gym Angel, in the north London borough of Islington, has resulted in more cross-trainers being added. In contrast, extensions are planned for The Gym Wood Green and The Gym Waterloo to support a growing demand for more functional training and free weights. A further six to seven gyms will also see their free weights areas extended this year.”

This customer-centric approach has also supported the new interior design, with greater consideration given to ease of navigation. Graham says: “Examining our members’ experience of using our gyms, we recognised the need to improve navigation and clarity over what to do and where to do it. Forty per cent of our members have never been a gym member before, and we understand that large gyms like ours with a lot of technology can be disorienting.”

One key new feature is therefore a members’ hub that offers access to free wifi and provides a central area for communications and engagement – including accessing the class timetable, booking classes, engaging a PT and using vending machines. This is in addition to kiosks at which members can join and manage their memberships.

Rolling out the model
With the new brand proposition now in place, The Gym has a strong opening programme and development pipeline for its roll-out: in addition to acquiring new-build gym sites in the UK, it continues to actively pursue acquisition opportunities at home and abroad.

However, as Graham concludes: “We don’t want to participate in a trolley dash for new gym sites. The market has seen that happen before and it didn’t end well. The best multi-site businesses are not the ones with the most sites – they’re the ones with the best sites. So we remain highly selective in our new gym locations, consolidating our leading position in the UK market.”

Moving with the market

Recognising the trends that have been gaining traction with mainstream consumers, The Gym now offers a variety of functional training and group exercise spaces, as well as extended free weights areas.
The Gym Manchester Portland Street, which reopened in a new location in August 2014, was the first gym to benefit from a dedicated functional training space; eight more gyms have since followed this new format.

Meanwhile – with industry research indicating that those who participate in group exercise are more likely to continue with their membership – The Gym is actively trialling a number of group exercise concepts in response to growing demand. The free classes take place in a separate studio or a clearly defined area on the main gym floor and include virtual classes – launched last year in partnership with Les Mills Virtual and already seen as an essential part of the 24/7 offering. Graham says: “In a choice between quantity and quality, it’s clear our members value quality service.” Graham.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
The fresh design at the new Charing Cross club includes subtle changes to layout and navigation
The fresh design at the new Charing Cross club includes subtle changes to layout and navigation
The new interiors aim to help the clubs become more convivial and engaging
The new interiors aim to help the clubs become more convivial and engaging
Founder of The Gym Group John Treharne (left) and COO Jim Graham (right) are focused on continuing their brand’s growth
Founder of The Gym Group John Treharne (left) and COO Jim Graham (right) are focused on continuing their brand’s growth
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/659117_408877.jpg
A user-friendly makeover for low-cost operator The Gym Group
Alison Bledge Jim Graham, chief operating officer of The Gym Group,Jim Graham, Gym Group, Charing Cross, Find Your Fit, Alison Bledge
HCM magazine
After a hiatus due to the pandemic, LeisureDB has updated its State of the Fitness Industry Report for 2022, as David Minton reports
HCM magazine
The ability to benchmark club performance by brand or by region is encouraging teams to look across the estate for training and best practice
HCM magazine
As Elevate returns to the market, we talk to director Lucy Findlay about how the event has come together
HCM Magazine
Research
The study showed an increase in the production of proteins used to build mitochondria, which produce energy in cells
HCM Magazine
Write to reply
Fuel the debate about issues and opportunities across the industry. We’d love to hear from you – [email protected]
HCM Magazine
Interview
The CEO of Women in Sport tells HCM about Big Sister, a new programme that’s working to overcome period poverty and get more girls active
HCM Magazine
Sponsored
The body composition specialists are showing no signs of slowing down, with new leadership and launches for 2022
HCM Magazine
Write to reply
Fuel the debate about issues and opportunities across the industry. We’d love to hear from you – [email protected]
HCM Magazine
Postbag
As HCM passed its 300th edition milestone, readers shared their thoughts and feelings on HCM’s contribution to the industry in a very special postbag
HCM Magazine
Annual report
In April, Deloitte and Europe Active published the ninth edition of their yearly European Health and Fitness Market Report, as Karsten Hollasch explains
HCM Magazine
Latest News
Music service provider Rehegoo (pronounced Reh-air-go) has launched a streaming service for health clubs, gyms, ...
Latest News
F45 has launched a corporate partnership programme which will enable businesses to open an F45 ...
Latest News
A two-year research project will look to find ways to transform the UK's physical activity ...
Latest News
The best in the business from across the physical activity sector were honoured last night ...
Latest News
At UK Active’s Active Uprising event yesterday (30 June) in Birmingham, Hattie Jones, the head ...
Latest News
HCM understands researchers are moving closer to creating a pill to mimic some of the ...
Latest News
Establishing new data and insight services and strengthening relationships with both government and the NHS ...
Latest News
More than one in five (27 per cent) Americans belonged to a health club or ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Fitness industry to gather at Sibec Europe-UK in Portugal this September
Questex’s iconic event Sibec Europe-UK – known as Europe’s leading hosted buyer event for the fitness industry – will take place from 27-30 September at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, in Portugal.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: It’s nearly time for Elevate 2022!
It’s now just days to go until your leading trade show for the fitness, physical activity and sports therapy industry kicks off in London!
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Serco Leisure wins 10-year Mansfield contract
Following a competitive tendering process, Serco Leisure and its partner More Leisure Community Trust Limited (MLCT) have been awarded a 10-year contract by Mansfield District Council to operate three centres in the town, starting 1 May 2022.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active to launch new exercise classes to reduce gender gap
As part of their work to break down the barriers that deter women and girls from participating in sport and physical activity, Everyone Active has teamed up with EMD UK to launch new exercise classes linked to the This Girl Can campaign.
Video Gallery
Total Vibration Solutions / Floors 4 Gyms / TVS Sports Surfaces
Mindbody, Inc
Sport Alliance GmbH
Company profiles
Company profile: UPTIVO S.r.l.
Uptivo makes workouts competitive and engaging while building a collaborative environment providing powerful tools to ...
Company profiles
Company profile: IONTO Health & Beauty GmbH
IONTO-COMED offers a wide range of treatment beds offering maximum flexibility and the symbiosis of ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
On demand
Fitness On Demand: On demand
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Fitness equipment
A Panatta Sport Srl: Fitness equipment
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Runcorn
Halton Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
12-13 Sep 2022
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs® Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
Diary dates
21-21 Sep 2022
Various, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
25-28 Oct 2022
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
25-28 Oct 2022
Ibiza, Ibiza, Spain
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
17-18 Mar 2023
Tobacco Dock, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates

features

New opening: Evolution not revolution

Jim Graham, chief operating officer of The Gym Group, speaks to Alison Bledge about how the low-cost pioneer is continuing its journey of innovation and success following a strategic review of its proposition

By Alison Bledge | Published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 6
Graham says The Gym Group is constantly evolving to stay ahead of ‘increasingly homogenous competition’
Graham says The Gym Group is constantly evolving to stay ahead of ‘increasingly homogenous competition’
We fit less equipment in our gyms initially and then carry out research on member behaviour and usage before completing the fit-out in a way that’s most relevant

The Gym Group transformed the fitness sector when it opened the UK’s first low-cost gym in Hounslow in 2008, providing affordable, high quality, 24/7 fitness facilities without fixed contracts. Within the first three years it experienced rapid growth, with 19 further gyms opening, and now has 59 sites in its portfolio – a figure that’s set to rise to 80 by the end of 2015.

Seven years on, the industry has become crowded with operators keen to duplicate the model and emulate its success. However, says Jim Graham, Gym Group COO: “We’re constantly evolving to stay ahead of increasingly homogenous competition. Our strategy is based on an intrinsic understanding of members, their needs, usage and attitude to our product and service.

We continually review our product, physical environment and marketing execution to ensure we’re giving members the very best offering.”

That review has, most recently, involved working with integrated communications agency Dinosaur to develop a new brand proposition. The resulting concept – ‘Find Your Fit’ – has been developed to appeal to real people with achievable fitness goals, aiming to inspire them to make the commitment to making exercise a part of their lives.

Graham explains: “We launched the rebrand nationwide in January 2015 with a new creative campaign celebrating the pride of real people in overcoming the barriers to getting fit.

“It’s a different creative direction for us: more human, personable and engaging. But it’s also deliberately different from typical health club advertising that tends to be bland, samey and predictable.”

Fresh interiors
To ensure consistency across the business, The Gym is also redesigning the interior of its gyms to ensure they align with the new brand position. True to its low-cost heritage, the gyms will remain functional and cost-effective in execution, but there’s a push towards making the space more convivial, more engaging at a human level and a more intuitive space to navigate and use.

Working with brand and interior design agency StartJG, the redesign introduces subtle adjustments to the environment, including a wider palette of colours, new materials and revisions to the layout and navigation.

“This is more an evolution than a revolution,” explains Graham. “Having built up an enormous amount of brand equity with 1.5 million members who love what we do, we were keen to stay true to our product offering, but we felt the time was right to build more personality and warmth into our brand and environment. It’s positive, confident with more than a hint of quirky humour.”

However, acknowledging the prohibitively high costs associated with a comprehensive rebrand and refurbishment of a large estate, the decision was taken to develop the new brand in such a way that it could happily co-exist with the old for a lengthy transition period.

Graham explains: “The Gym totally refurbishes its facilities on a five-year refresh cycle, and this provides the ideal mechanism to update and reconfigure the mature estate over time. Four gyms will be refreshed this year, including The Gym Brighton, with the programme gathering pace in 2016.

“Of course the 25 gyms being opened in 2015 will sport the new look, with The Gym Bracknell being the first to showcase the new brand and signage when it opened in January 2015, and the brand new Charing Cross gym – 200 yards from Nelson’s Column in central London – being the first to feature aspects of the new interior design.”

Being customer-led
Graham continues: “We know that members in different locations have fundamentally contrasting profiles, with often quite radically diverse demands. The Gym is very much a customer-led business. We’re also hyper-local, using data and insight to define what equipment we fit and where we fit it.

“We’re fitting less equipment in our gyms initially and carrying out detailed research on member behaviour and usage before completing the extensive fit-out in a way that’s most relevant to the profile of members we’ve attracted.

“For example, high demand for cardio equipment at The Gym Angel, in the north London borough of Islington, has resulted in more cross-trainers being added. In contrast, extensions are planned for The Gym Wood Green and The Gym Waterloo to support a growing demand for more functional training and free weights. A further six to seven gyms will also see their free weights areas extended this year.”

This customer-centric approach has also supported the new interior design, with greater consideration given to ease of navigation. Graham says: “Examining our members’ experience of using our gyms, we recognised the need to improve navigation and clarity over what to do and where to do it. Forty per cent of our members have never been a gym member before, and we understand that large gyms like ours with a lot of technology can be disorienting.”

One key new feature is therefore a members’ hub that offers access to free wifi and provides a central area for communications and engagement – including accessing the class timetable, booking classes, engaging a PT and using vending machines. This is in addition to kiosks at which members can join and manage their memberships.

Rolling out the model
With the new brand proposition now in place, The Gym has a strong opening programme and development pipeline for its roll-out: in addition to acquiring new-build gym sites in the UK, it continues to actively pursue acquisition opportunities at home and abroad.

However, as Graham concludes: “We don’t want to participate in a trolley dash for new gym sites. The market has seen that happen before and it didn’t end well. The best multi-site businesses are not the ones with the most sites – they’re the ones with the best sites. So we remain highly selective in our new gym locations, consolidating our leading position in the UK market.”

Moving with the market

Recognising the trends that have been gaining traction with mainstream consumers, The Gym now offers a variety of functional training and group exercise spaces, as well as extended free weights areas.
The Gym Manchester Portland Street, which reopened in a new location in August 2014, was the first gym to benefit from a dedicated functional training space; eight more gyms have since followed this new format.

Meanwhile – with industry research indicating that those who participate in group exercise are more likely to continue with their membership – The Gym is actively trialling a number of group exercise concepts in response to growing demand. The free classes take place in a separate studio or a clearly defined area on the main gym floor and include virtual classes – launched last year in partnership with Les Mills Virtual and already seen as an essential part of the 24/7 offering. Graham says: “In a choice between quantity and quality, it’s clear our members value quality service.” Graham.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
The fresh design at the new Charing Cross club includes subtle changes to layout and navigation
The fresh design at the new Charing Cross club includes subtle changes to layout and navigation
The new interiors aim to help the clubs become more convivial and engaging
The new interiors aim to help the clubs become more convivial and engaging
Founder of The Gym Group John Treharne (left) and COO Jim Graham (right) are focused on continuing their brand’s growth
Founder of The Gym Group John Treharne (left) and COO Jim Graham (right) are focused on continuing their brand’s growth
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/659117_408877.jpg
A user-friendly makeover for low-cost operator The Gym Group
Alison Bledge Jim Graham, chief operating officer of The Gym Group,Jim Graham, Gym Group, Charing Cross, Find Your Fit, Alison Bledge
Latest News
Music service provider Rehegoo (pronounced Reh-air-go) has launched a streaming service for health clubs, gyms, ...
Latest News
F45 has launched a corporate partnership programme which will enable businesses to open an F45 ...
Latest News
A two-year research project will look to find ways to transform the UK's physical activity ...
Latest News
The best in the business from across the physical activity sector were honoured last night ...
Latest News
At UK Active’s Active Uprising event yesterday (30 June) in Birmingham, Hattie Jones, the head ...
Latest News
HCM understands researchers are moving closer to creating a pill to mimic some of the ...
Latest News
Establishing new data and insight services and strengthening relationships with both government and the NHS ...
Latest News
More than one in five (27 per cent) Americans belonged to a health club or ...
Latest News
Ultimate Performance (UP) – the private gym chain and PT business – has opened a ...
Latest News
Luxury hotel chain Mandarin Oriental has launched a new brand called Intelligent Movement to deliver ...
Latest News
Boutique fitness chain 1Rebel opens the doors to its tenth club today (Monday 27 June ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Fitness industry to gather at Sibec Europe-UK in Portugal this September
Questex’s iconic event Sibec Europe-UK – known as Europe’s leading hosted buyer event for the fitness industry – will take place from 27-30 September at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, in Portugal.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: It’s nearly time for Elevate 2022!
It’s now just days to go until your leading trade show for the fitness, physical activity and sports therapy industry kicks off in London!
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Serco Leisure wins 10-year Mansfield contract
Following a competitive tendering process, Serco Leisure and its partner More Leisure Community Trust Limited (MLCT) have been awarded a 10-year contract by Mansfield District Council to operate three centres in the town, starting 1 May 2022.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active to launch new exercise classes to reduce gender gap
As part of their work to break down the barriers that deter women and girls from participating in sport and physical activity, Everyone Active has teamed up with EMD UK to launch new exercise classes linked to the This Girl Can campaign.
Video Gallery
Total Vibration Solutions / Floors 4 Gyms / TVS Sports Surfaces
Mindbody, Inc
Sport Alliance GmbH
Company profiles
Company profile: UPTIVO S.r.l.
Uptivo makes workouts competitive and engaging while building a collaborative environment providing powerful tools to ...
Company profiles
Company profile: IONTO Health & Beauty GmbH
IONTO-COMED offers a wide range of treatment beds offering maximum flexibility and the symbiosis of ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
On demand
Fitness On Demand: On demand
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Fitness equipment
A Panatta Sport Srl: Fitness equipment
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Runcorn
Halton Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
12-13 Sep 2022
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs® Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
Diary dates
21-21 Sep 2022
Various, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
25-28 Oct 2022
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
25-28 Oct 2022
Ibiza, Ibiza, Spain
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
17-18 Mar 2023
Tobacco Dock, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
Search news, features & products:
Find a supplier:
Questex/McLean Events (Spatec/SIBEC)
Questex/McLean Events (Spatec/SIBEC)
Partner sites