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
Les Mills International
Les Mills International
Les Mills International
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

Interview: Sondre Gravir

SATS is on a mission to help people of all ages become healthier and happier, with a focus on creating a product where the barriers to entry are low and the value to society high. Its CEO speaks to Kate Cracknell

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 11
Gravir says it’s vital the SATS vision is embedded into club culture / photo: Sondre Gravir - SATS
Gravir says it’s vital the SATS vision is embedded into club culture / photo: Sondre Gravir - SATS
We talk about our clubs being welcoming places with a joyful atmosphere. That sense of joy is key if we want everyone to enjoy the benefits of working out

What’s the SATS vision?
Ever since SATS was founded 25 years ago, its philosophy has been to make fitness available to everyone.

We talk about our clubs being welcoming places with a joyful atmosphere. That sense of joy is key. If we want everyone to enjoy the benefits of working out, we have to take on the role of inspirer. We have to create low barriers to entry and a product that’s fun.

Fitness isn’t about the very trained, very fit young people you still see in commercials across our sector. It’s about offering a product that really engages and activates the whole population, and that’s what we aim to do at SATS. We want to help everyone, of all ages, become healthier and happier.

This vision has implications for our product offering, of course, which has to be very diverse to ensure we’re a great choice for the super-fit 25-year-old guy or girl in the city centre of Stockholm, as well as for the 77-year-old who wants to stay active and in good physical shape as they age.

It’s also vital that our vision is strongly embedded in our culture, because in a people business like ours, the customer experience is reliant on the engagement and dedication of employees. We work hard to ensure our vision is lived in our clubs every day. If you go into any SATS club and ask even a part-time employee, he or she will really give strong examples of our vision in practice.

Where are your clubs located?
We operate in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland (see The SATS estate). Within those markets, we’re very focused on creating strong footprints in the capitals and other large cities where we operate. This will continue to be our strategy moving forward: we will not be a single-club, single-city operator. We want multiple clubs in each city.

This cluster strategy is important, because our member value is based on our people using multiple clubs. A typical SATS member regularly works out in least at two or three different clubs. In our Stockholm city centre cluster, as an example, that number would be closer to four.

We want there to be a club close to where you live, a club close to where you work and a club close to where your friends live. We want the barrier to enjoying a great training experience to be low.

The other part of our cluster strategy is that across these clubs, you should be able to enjoy the whole product experience. Let’s take group training as an example, which is a central part of our offering; around 50 per cent of our member base are group class members, which is possible thanks to our flexible, modular membership.

In a typical week in Stockholm or Oslo, across the cluster you’ll have around 3,000 classes on the schedule. It’s a massive offering and – even though our clubs are typically around 2,500–3,000sq m with one or two group exercise studios, a separate yoga studio, an indoor running zone for running classes and a functional area for HIIT strength classes – we can’t offer everything in every club.

We can, however, make sure members have access to the whole product portfolio across the two, three or four different clubs they use. So, we look at our member data – at how members are using our clubs – and we distribute our product offering to ensure everyone has access to all products. This is a key part of our strategy and fundamental to the member experience.

Can you detail your flexible memberships?
The sector’s traditional model – one membership, one price, with a binding 12-month contract – just isn’t very member-friendly. We want to offer far more flexibility.

At SATS, you can therefore design your own membership and pay just for what you want. Do you want access to just one club, the full cluster, all clubs in the Nordics? Do you want a contract or not? Which of our products do you want access to? If you change your mind at any point, you can digitally upgrade and downgrade your membership – self-service – as you go along.

At some point, of course, you’ll be better off opting for our full-access membership. Because it isn’t like some other European markets where you pay €120 just to access one decent club. SATS full-access membership costs just €60–65 a month, and for that you get access to every one of our premium clubs, including all our classes. It’s a pretty low price point compared to the purchasing power of Nordic society and the pricing of other consumer goods.

Of course, it’s then up to us to ensure we have such a good offering – including such great classes and inspiring instructors – that people want to keep using it and paying for it. We know that 75 per cent of the members who leave SATS are inactive. If they’re active, they don’t leave. One of our KPIs is therefore number of visits per member per week, and we work hard to keep people coming. For me, that’s a much healthier approach than binding people into contracts.

Tell us more about your customer data use
This is crucial for the whole industry and a path all operators must go down if they haven’t already started. It’s about being customer-centric, basing decisions on what your members are actually doing – their preferences, needs and desires – not on what you think is best for them.

I already gave the example of our group fitness programming: which clubs get which classes and which concepts, at what point in time during the week. This isn’t dictated by the club manager or by instructor availability. It’s truly based on the data: historical data, member feedback, the ways in which members are using our clubs.

The same goes for new product development: we use data to understand what types of new product we should launch, we do a lot of piloting, we do a lot of AB testing of both our digital and physical member experiences.

We’re starting to become quite a data-driven company, with a strong technology and data insight team, which is great because it’s basically making our product offering better.

What are some of your latest product innovations?
We already had a decent digital offering going into COVID: we were already well aware of the need for a great digital experience as well as a great in-person one, and the need to invest in technology to deliver this.

But of course, we’ve stepped up during COVID, providing members with lots of live classes, digital PT solutions, home training programmes, nutrition advice, mental health classes and so on – all for free during memberships freezes. Because ultimately, if our vision is to make people healthier and happier… well, that vision doesn’t stop just because clubs are closed, does it? The more we can activate our members and help them train at home, the better.

In 2020, there was a 400 per cent uplift in the volume of digital content we produced, with thousands of classes on offer and 700,000 members working out with us online. I think it’s probably one of the main reasons why our member numbers held up pretty well throughout lockdowns compared to many other operators.

Now we’ve taken the next step in our digital product offering, with the recent launch of a completely new home training solution: Mentra by SATS.

What is Mentra by SATS and who’s it aimed at?
Mentra by SATS is the name of the whole ecosystem, with the first physical product an interactive fitness mirror. The mirror costs around €1,300, with a digital fitness subscription charged on top of this. This subscription is discounted if you’re a SATS member; if you have an All Inclusive SATS membership, Mentra by SATS content is included for free.

We absolutely believe the market is there. In fact, further down the line, our ambition is to also launch a bike and treadmill for connected home training. Across the whole of Europe, as well as in markets like the US, people are now showing they’re willing to invest more and more in living a healthy lifestyle.

How will your clubs and home workouts co-exist?
Obviously there’s a lot of discussion around how the industry will change, how consumer behaviour will change, as a result of COVID.

At SATS, we believe people will work out more at home and outdoors than they used to, but that they’ll also work out more in-club. We truly believe overall activity levels will increase across society and that we have an important role to play in contributing to this.

Once again, it comes back to flexibility and making sure the barriers to activity are low: some days, members will want to come to the club for the joyful experience of working out with others; other days, when they can’t make it to the club but still want to do their class, we’ll make it possible for them to do that from home.

We’re therefore optimistic both for our physical clubs – where we’ve seeing visit levels recovering post-lockdowns – and in terms of the rise in digital and home training.

Of course, digital is also a way to extend our product offering into geographies where we aren’t present with physical clubs, as well as to reach those in our existing geographies who don’t want to attend a physical club. Both of these are very interesting opportunities.

How is SATS performing?
Club closures are very challenging from a financial perspective, in spite of our strong measures to control cash burn rate. If you look at the share prices, we IPO’d in October 2019 at NOK 23.50, which over the next six months rose to NOK 30. Then came COVID and brought the price down to NOK 12, so it was a massive hit.

In spite of Omicron, we’re back to trading between NOK 19 and NOK 24, so we’re at or close to IPO level.

We also took a decision early in the COVID crisis to use this special situation to come out as a strengthened company. We’ve, therefore, doubled down on expansion, not only of our digital presence, but of our physical club network too. During 2020 and 2021, we’ll have opened 30 clubs. Compare that to just a handful of openings in 2015 and 2016, for example.

Our focus will remain on the Nordics for now; new countries may come in the future, but that isn’t something we’re focusing at the moment.

We’re continuing to invest in our product, too, including new class concepts and selective expansion of our offering: a branded clothing line, nutrition, and physical therapy treatments in some of our markets which is picking up pretty well. I think there are several interesting opportunities for further brand expansion, either on our own or in partnership, to offer a more holistic health experience for our members.

And of course, short term the focus is on getting our membership back to pre-COVID levels. We went into COVID with around 700,000 members and currently have around 600,000, so although numbers are recovering, we still have a way to go.

Are you concerned by digital competition?
Being market leader in the Nordics, people often ask if we fear competition from new concepts, boutique operators, new digital offerings and so on. To be honest, we don’t. It’s not that we’re naïve – we’re aware there are a lot of great new offerings out there that could compete very well with us. It’s simply that we see ourselves as part of a growing market.

Penetration is a bit higher in the Nordics, but look across Europe.

We’re talking maybe 10–15 per cent population penetration. Our job isn’t to compete with each other, fighting over the same members, but to expand the market together, bringing more people into physical activity. And there are so many opportunities to do this, which is why I see the innovation happening in the industry as a good thing. It’s what will bring more people in. And I think we, as a sector, have a responsibility to do this.

It’s why SATS has focused on UN SDG #3, which is all about health and wellbeing. We believe our sector has a vital role to play in improving physical and mental health across society, by increasing activity levels. As an example, SATS had around 40 million member visits a year before COVID, and rising. Those 40 million visits… that’s a whole lot of public health.

But there’s still a lot of work to do to ensure governments, other decision-makers and society in general really understand the value of what we do. We can’t sit and complain about this, though. If ours was one of the first industries to be locked down in many countries, it’s because we haven’t yet told our story well enough. We have to take responsibility.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen more collaboration across the sector and we need to keep this going, working together to get the message out there about the contribution we can make to society.

What do you love about working in fitness?
In other industries, you might stand on stage one day and talk about vision to your employees, but the next day it’s back to talking about financials. In our industry, the two are inextricably linked. Of course, as a listed company we have to deliver our financial results, but our vision of making people healthier and happier... If we deliver on that – if we focus on the member experience, on bringing people into activity and on keeping them active – the financial results will come.

The SATS estate

Currently sitting at 254 clubs across the Nordics – growth that has been achieved both organically and through acquisition – SATS streamlined its branding over the course of 2018–19.

The majority of its clubs now operate under the premium SATS brand. It is only in Finland that ELIXIA, always a strong brand in this market, continues to operate. However, as CEO Sondre Gravir explains: “We operate all clubs in all four markets as one company. The operational procedures, the business model, the product offering, the programming, the colour schemes, the staff education, the flexible memberships, the app... It’s the same everywhere. The only thing that’s different is the brand name in Finland.”

The estate currently comprises 80 SATS clubs in Norway, 84 SATS clubs in Sweden, 30 SATS clubs in Denmark and 30 ELIXIA-branded clubs in Finland. In addition, 30 low-cost Fresh Fitness clubs operate in Norway, as well as two standalone HiYoga studios in Oslo; other HiYoga studios exist as ‘clubs-in-club’. All figures correct as at 20 August 2021.

Full access membership is at a comparatively low price for the Nordics / Photo: SATS
A brief history of SATS

1995
SATS launches in Norway by re-branding eight existing fitness clubs.

1998
SATS, by this point operating 49 clubs, is acquired by US-based 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide.

1999
SATS acquires Swedish Sports Club and establishes operations in Sweden.

2000
Expansion continues, including an entry into the Danish market, to reach 100 clubs in the Nordics. SATS becomes the first chain in the Nordics to offer personal training.

2001
Launch of Elixia, reaching 16 clubs in Norway and Finland by year-end.

2002
Private equity investor Nordic Capital and the Norwegian founders of SATS acquire SATS from 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide.

2003
SATS opens its first clubs in Finland.

2006
The company is acquired by TryghedsGruppen SMBA.

2010
Fresh Fitness launches as a low-cost alternative in Norway and Denmark.

2011
Elixia is acquired by private equity investor Altor (Altor Fund III).

2013
The Danish Fresh Fitness clubs are divested.

2014
Merger of SATS and Elixia creates the largest fitness chain in the Nordics.

2016
Launch of online training and niche training concepts including HiYoga, Build ’n’ Burn and martial arts.

2017
Launch of a modular membership structure, allowing members to tailor their own package. SATS acquires Aquarama Trening and Bromma Träningscenter.

2018
All Elixia clubs in Norway, plus 22 Fresh Fitness clubs across the Nordics, are rebranded to the SATS concept. New member app launched with social network functionality. Acquisition of three Balance clubs. Sondre Gravir, a member of SATS for 20 years, becomes CEO, bringing with him a background in strong consumer brands and a belief in the vital role fitness plays in society.

2019
SATS acquires fitness DK’s 39 clubs to re-enter the Danish market. SATS ASA lists on the Oslo Stock Exchange; Altor and TryghedsGruppen remain key investors.

2020
SATS opens 15 clubs, closes one and divests nine clubs in Denmark outside the Greater Copenhagen cluster. Six Bare Trening clubs in the Greater Oslo area acquired and rebranded to strengthen the Fresh Fitness Oslo cluster. The COVID-19 pandemic forces two waves of temporary club closures.

2021
Growth continues, with 30 new clubs and continued expansion into the digital arena.

Gravir, a SATS member for 20 years, became CEO in 2018 / photo: Sondre gravir - sats
The focus is on great classes and inspiring instructors / photo: SATS
The focus is on great classes and inspiring instructors / photo: SATS
SATS plans to launch a treadmill and a bike for connected home training / photo: SATS
SATS plans to launch a treadmill and a bike for connected home training / photo: SATS
The new Mentra by SATS mirror is used at home to access digital classes / photo: Mentra by SATS
The new Mentra by SATS mirror is used at home to access digital classes / photo: Mentra by SATS
Post-COVID overall member activity levels are expected to rise / photo: SATS
Post-COVID overall member activity levels are expected to rise / photo: SATS
The SATS mission is to play a vital role in public health / photo: SATS
The SATS mission is to play a vital role in public health / photo: SATS
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/394090_45400.jpg
Nordic operator SATS is on a mission to get everyone into exercise, as its CEO, Sondre Gravir, explains to Kate Cracknell
HCM magazine
Each health club has its own unique challenges, but the right tech solution can make all the difference. In the first of a two-part series, specialists share how they’ve solved specific issues
HCM magazine
HCM People

Jon Wright

Founder and CEO, Feel Electric
We’ve set ourselves the initial goal of developing 100 Feel Electric sites, using a cluster model
HCM magazine
What to do when your changing rooms need a refresh, but your budget is stretched? These specialists share their top tips for easy upgrades that won’t break the bank
HCM Magazine
Annual report
Signs from the market are very encouraging. Basic-Fit increased membership by 18 per cent in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the end of the previous year
HCM Magazine
Supplier showcase
Pulse Fitness and Bolsover District Council have been collaborating for many years to deliver dedicated community activity spaces
HCM Magazine
Insight
The Global Wellness Summit brought together public health and wellness experts in Boston recently. Jane Kitchen was there for HCM to see first-hand what this ‘New new era in health and wellness’ will look like for the sector
HCM Magazine
Sponsored
Yate Leisure is one of the largest sites in Circadian Trust’s portfolio, with around 4,000 members. Ben Beasley, director of commercial development, explains why they were an early adopter of Technogym Biocircuit, and how the offer has evolved
HCM Magazine
Research
Being physically active can heal damage caused by diabetes, enabling the activation of a natural system that grows new blood vessels, according to research in the US
HCM Magazine
Q&A
Social media influencers cause harm by raising unrealistic expectations of physical perfection, as Andrea Dearden explains
HCM Magazine
Everyone's talking about
In the wake of the pandemic, is the time ripe to change the language around the role of exercise professionals, and gain greater trust from the healthcare sector?
HCM Magazine
Latest News
The Leisure Database Company (TLDB) has revealed its State of the Fitness Industry Report UK ...
Latest News
The Gym Group’s (TGG) plans and profit forecasts were presented to analysts and investors during ...
Latest News
A new physical activity programme called Big Sister has been launched in the UK to ...
Latest News
Go Fit has been selected by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) as ...
Latest News
Ness, a US startup that is developing a range of wellness-driven credit cards, has launched ...
Latest News
Following a history of supporting US military and service members, F45 has announced a new ...
Latest News
Hyatt is piloting private gyms in five of its US hotels as part of its ...
Latest News
A young girl has died following an incident at the David Lloyd gym at Capability ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: active-net 2022 tackles mental health awareness
More than 100 industry delegates met in person at the annual active-net event at Eastwood Hall in Nottingham on 23-24 March.
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 operator news
Featured operator news: New partnership delivers swimming support to children with disabilities
A new partnership has been launched to provide inclusive swimming for children with mobility, visual and hearing disabilities.
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
Mindbody, Inc
Company profiles
Company profile: Mindbody
Mindbody is the leading technology platform for the wellness industry, featuring an app that allows ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Merrithew™ - Leaders in Mindful Movement™
Merrithew™ enriches the lives of others with responsible exercise modalities and innovative, multidisciplinary fitness offerings ...
Supplier Showcases
Supplier showcase - Pulse Fitness: trusted partner
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Lockers/interior design
Safe Space Lockers Ltd: Lockers/interior design
On demand
Fitness On Demand: On demand
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
Fitness equipment
A Panatta Sport Srl: Fitness equipment
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Runcorn
Halton Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
30-30 Jun 2022
The ICC, Birmingham, Birmingham , United Kingdom
Diary dates
12-13 Sep 2022
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs® Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
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

Interview: Sondre Gravir

SATS is on a mission to help people of all ages become healthier and happier, with a focus on creating a product where the barriers to entry are low and the value to society high. Its CEO speaks to Kate Cracknell

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 11
Gravir says it’s vital the SATS vision is embedded into club culture / photo: Sondre Gravir - SATS
Gravir says it’s vital the SATS vision is embedded into club culture / photo: Sondre Gravir - SATS
We talk about our clubs being welcoming places with a joyful atmosphere. That sense of joy is key if we want everyone to enjoy the benefits of working out

What’s the SATS vision?
Ever since SATS was founded 25 years ago, its philosophy has been to make fitness available to everyone.

We talk about our clubs being welcoming places with a joyful atmosphere. That sense of joy is key. If we want everyone to enjoy the benefits of working out, we have to take on the role of inspirer. We have to create low barriers to entry and a product that’s fun.

Fitness isn’t about the very trained, very fit young people you still see in commercials across our sector. It’s about offering a product that really engages and activates the whole population, and that’s what we aim to do at SATS. We want to help everyone, of all ages, become healthier and happier.

This vision has implications for our product offering, of course, which has to be very diverse to ensure we’re a great choice for the super-fit 25-year-old guy or girl in the city centre of Stockholm, as well as for the 77-year-old who wants to stay active and in good physical shape as they age.

It’s also vital that our vision is strongly embedded in our culture, because in a people business like ours, the customer experience is reliant on the engagement and dedication of employees. We work hard to ensure our vision is lived in our clubs every day. If you go into any SATS club and ask even a part-time employee, he or she will really give strong examples of our vision in practice.

Where are your clubs located?
We operate in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland (see The SATS estate). Within those markets, we’re very focused on creating strong footprints in the capitals and other large cities where we operate. This will continue to be our strategy moving forward: we will not be a single-club, single-city operator. We want multiple clubs in each city.

This cluster strategy is important, because our member value is based on our people using multiple clubs. A typical SATS member regularly works out in least at two or three different clubs. In our Stockholm city centre cluster, as an example, that number would be closer to four.

We want there to be a club close to where you live, a club close to where you work and a club close to where your friends live. We want the barrier to enjoying a great training experience to be low.

The other part of our cluster strategy is that across these clubs, you should be able to enjoy the whole product experience. Let’s take group training as an example, which is a central part of our offering; around 50 per cent of our member base are group class members, which is possible thanks to our flexible, modular membership.

In a typical week in Stockholm or Oslo, across the cluster you’ll have around 3,000 classes on the schedule. It’s a massive offering and – even though our clubs are typically around 2,500–3,000sq m with one or two group exercise studios, a separate yoga studio, an indoor running zone for running classes and a functional area for HIIT strength classes – we can’t offer everything in every club.

We can, however, make sure members have access to the whole product portfolio across the two, three or four different clubs they use. So, we look at our member data – at how members are using our clubs – and we distribute our product offering to ensure everyone has access to all products. This is a key part of our strategy and fundamental to the member experience.

Can you detail your flexible memberships?
The sector’s traditional model – one membership, one price, with a binding 12-month contract – just isn’t very member-friendly. We want to offer far more flexibility.

At SATS, you can therefore design your own membership and pay just for what you want. Do you want access to just one club, the full cluster, all clubs in the Nordics? Do you want a contract or not? Which of our products do you want access to? If you change your mind at any point, you can digitally upgrade and downgrade your membership – self-service – as you go along.

At some point, of course, you’ll be better off opting for our full-access membership. Because it isn’t like some other European markets where you pay €120 just to access one decent club. SATS full-access membership costs just €60–65 a month, and for that you get access to every one of our premium clubs, including all our classes. It’s a pretty low price point compared to the purchasing power of Nordic society and the pricing of other consumer goods.

Of course, it’s then up to us to ensure we have such a good offering – including such great classes and inspiring instructors – that people want to keep using it and paying for it. We know that 75 per cent of the members who leave SATS are inactive. If they’re active, they don’t leave. One of our KPIs is therefore number of visits per member per week, and we work hard to keep people coming. For me, that’s a much healthier approach than binding people into contracts.

Tell us more about your customer data use
This is crucial for the whole industry and a path all operators must go down if they haven’t already started. It’s about being customer-centric, basing decisions on what your members are actually doing – their preferences, needs and desires – not on what you think is best for them.

I already gave the example of our group fitness programming: which clubs get which classes and which concepts, at what point in time during the week. This isn’t dictated by the club manager or by instructor availability. It’s truly based on the data: historical data, member feedback, the ways in which members are using our clubs.

The same goes for new product development: we use data to understand what types of new product we should launch, we do a lot of piloting, we do a lot of AB testing of both our digital and physical member experiences.

We’re starting to become quite a data-driven company, with a strong technology and data insight team, which is great because it’s basically making our product offering better.

What are some of your latest product innovations?
We already had a decent digital offering going into COVID: we were already well aware of the need for a great digital experience as well as a great in-person one, and the need to invest in technology to deliver this.

But of course, we’ve stepped up during COVID, providing members with lots of live classes, digital PT solutions, home training programmes, nutrition advice, mental health classes and so on – all for free during memberships freezes. Because ultimately, if our vision is to make people healthier and happier… well, that vision doesn’t stop just because clubs are closed, does it? The more we can activate our members and help them train at home, the better.

In 2020, there was a 400 per cent uplift in the volume of digital content we produced, with thousands of classes on offer and 700,000 members working out with us online. I think it’s probably one of the main reasons why our member numbers held up pretty well throughout lockdowns compared to many other operators.

Now we’ve taken the next step in our digital product offering, with the recent launch of a completely new home training solution: Mentra by SATS.

What is Mentra by SATS and who’s it aimed at?
Mentra by SATS is the name of the whole ecosystem, with the first physical product an interactive fitness mirror. The mirror costs around €1,300, with a digital fitness subscription charged on top of this. This subscription is discounted if you’re a SATS member; if you have an All Inclusive SATS membership, Mentra by SATS content is included for free.

We absolutely believe the market is there. In fact, further down the line, our ambition is to also launch a bike and treadmill for connected home training. Across the whole of Europe, as well as in markets like the US, people are now showing they’re willing to invest more and more in living a healthy lifestyle.

How will your clubs and home workouts co-exist?
Obviously there’s a lot of discussion around how the industry will change, how consumer behaviour will change, as a result of COVID.

At SATS, we believe people will work out more at home and outdoors than they used to, but that they’ll also work out more in-club. We truly believe overall activity levels will increase across society and that we have an important role to play in contributing to this.

Once again, it comes back to flexibility and making sure the barriers to activity are low: some days, members will want to come to the club for the joyful experience of working out with others; other days, when they can’t make it to the club but still want to do their class, we’ll make it possible for them to do that from home.

We’re therefore optimistic both for our physical clubs – where we’ve seeing visit levels recovering post-lockdowns – and in terms of the rise in digital and home training.

Of course, digital is also a way to extend our product offering into geographies where we aren’t present with physical clubs, as well as to reach those in our existing geographies who don’t want to attend a physical club. Both of these are very interesting opportunities.

How is SATS performing?
Club closures are very challenging from a financial perspective, in spite of our strong measures to control cash burn rate. If you look at the share prices, we IPO’d in October 2019 at NOK 23.50, which over the next six months rose to NOK 30. Then came COVID and brought the price down to NOK 12, so it was a massive hit.

In spite of Omicron, we’re back to trading between NOK 19 and NOK 24, so we’re at or close to IPO level.

We also took a decision early in the COVID crisis to use this special situation to come out as a strengthened company. We’ve, therefore, doubled down on expansion, not only of our digital presence, but of our physical club network too. During 2020 and 2021, we’ll have opened 30 clubs. Compare that to just a handful of openings in 2015 and 2016, for example.

Our focus will remain on the Nordics for now; new countries may come in the future, but that isn’t something we’re focusing at the moment.

We’re continuing to invest in our product, too, including new class concepts and selective expansion of our offering: a branded clothing line, nutrition, and physical therapy treatments in some of our markets which is picking up pretty well. I think there are several interesting opportunities for further brand expansion, either on our own or in partnership, to offer a more holistic health experience for our members.

And of course, short term the focus is on getting our membership back to pre-COVID levels. We went into COVID with around 700,000 members and currently have around 600,000, so although numbers are recovering, we still have a way to go.

Are you concerned by digital competition?
Being market leader in the Nordics, people often ask if we fear competition from new concepts, boutique operators, new digital offerings and so on. To be honest, we don’t. It’s not that we’re naïve – we’re aware there are a lot of great new offerings out there that could compete very well with us. It’s simply that we see ourselves as part of a growing market.

Penetration is a bit higher in the Nordics, but look across Europe.

We’re talking maybe 10–15 per cent population penetration. Our job isn’t to compete with each other, fighting over the same members, but to expand the market together, bringing more people into physical activity. And there are so many opportunities to do this, which is why I see the innovation happening in the industry as a good thing. It’s what will bring more people in. And I think we, as a sector, have a responsibility to do this.

It’s why SATS has focused on UN SDG #3, which is all about health and wellbeing. We believe our sector has a vital role to play in improving physical and mental health across society, by increasing activity levels. As an example, SATS had around 40 million member visits a year before COVID, and rising. Those 40 million visits… that’s a whole lot of public health.

But there’s still a lot of work to do to ensure governments, other decision-makers and society in general really understand the value of what we do. We can’t sit and complain about this, though. If ours was one of the first industries to be locked down in many countries, it’s because we haven’t yet told our story well enough. We have to take responsibility.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen more collaboration across the sector and we need to keep this going, working together to get the message out there about the contribution we can make to society.

What do you love about working in fitness?
In other industries, you might stand on stage one day and talk about vision to your employees, but the next day it’s back to talking about financials. In our industry, the two are inextricably linked. Of course, as a listed company we have to deliver our financial results, but our vision of making people healthier and happier... If we deliver on that – if we focus on the member experience, on bringing people into activity and on keeping them active – the financial results will come.

The SATS estate

Currently sitting at 254 clubs across the Nordics – growth that has been achieved both organically and through acquisition – SATS streamlined its branding over the course of 2018–19.

The majority of its clubs now operate under the premium SATS brand. It is only in Finland that ELIXIA, always a strong brand in this market, continues to operate. However, as CEO Sondre Gravir explains: “We operate all clubs in all four markets as one company. The operational procedures, the business model, the product offering, the programming, the colour schemes, the staff education, the flexible memberships, the app... It’s the same everywhere. The only thing that’s different is the brand name in Finland.”

The estate currently comprises 80 SATS clubs in Norway, 84 SATS clubs in Sweden, 30 SATS clubs in Denmark and 30 ELIXIA-branded clubs in Finland. In addition, 30 low-cost Fresh Fitness clubs operate in Norway, as well as two standalone HiYoga studios in Oslo; other HiYoga studios exist as ‘clubs-in-club’. All figures correct as at 20 August 2021.

Full access membership is at a comparatively low price for the Nordics / Photo: SATS
A brief history of SATS

1995
SATS launches in Norway by re-branding eight existing fitness clubs.

1998
SATS, by this point operating 49 clubs, is acquired by US-based 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide.

1999
SATS acquires Swedish Sports Club and establishes operations in Sweden.

2000
Expansion continues, including an entry into the Danish market, to reach 100 clubs in the Nordics. SATS becomes the first chain in the Nordics to offer personal training.

2001
Launch of Elixia, reaching 16 clubs in Norway and Finland by year-end.

2002
Private equity investor Nordic Capital and the Norwegian founders of SATS acquire SATS from 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide.

2003
SATS opens its first clubs in Finland.

2006
The company is acquired by TryghedsGruppen SMBA.

2010
Fresh Fitness launches as a low-cost alternative in Norway and Denmark.

2011
Elixia is acquired by private equity investor Altor (Altor Fund III).

2013
The Danish Fresh Fitness clubs are divested.

2014
Merger of SATS and Elixia creates the largest fitness chain in the Nordics.

2016
Launch of online training and niche training concepts including HiYoga, Build ’n’ Burn and martial arts.

2017
Launch of a modular membership structure, allowing members to tailor their own package. SATS acquires Aquarama Trening and Bromma Träningscenter.

2018
All Elixia clubs in Norway, plus 22 Fresh Fitness clubs across the Nordics, are rebranded to the SATS concept. New member app launched with social network functionality. Acquisition of three Balance clubs. Sondre Gravir, a member of SATS for 20 years, becomes CEO, bringing with him a background in strong consumer brands and a belief in the vital role fitness plays in society.

2019
SATS acquires fitness DK’s 39 clubs to re-enter the Danish market. SATS ASA lists on the Oslo Stock Exchange; Altor and TryghedsGruppen remain key investors.

2020
SATS opens 15 clubs, closes one and divests nine clubs in Denmark outside the Greater Copenhagen cluster. Six Bare Trening clubs in the Greater Oslo area acquired and rebranded to strengthen the Fresh Fitness Oslo cluster. The COVID-19 pandemic forces two waves of temporary club closures.

2021
Growth continues, with 30 new clubs and continued expansion into the digital arena.

Gravir, a SATS member for 20 years, became CEO in 2018 / photo: Sondre gravir - sats
The focus is on great classes and inspiring instructors / photo: SATS
The focus is on great classes and inspiring instructors / photo: SATS
SATS plans to launch a treadmill and a bike for connected home training / photo: SATS
SATS plans to launch a treadmill and a bike for connected home training / photo: SATS
The new Mentra by SATS mirror is used at home to access digital classes / photo: Mentra by SATS
The new Mentra by SATS mirror is used at home to access digital classes / photo: Mentra by SATS
Post-COVID overall member activity levels are expected to rise / photo: SATS
Post-COVID overall member activity levels are expected to rise / photo: SATS
The SATS mission is to play a vital role in public health / photo: SATS
The SATS mission is to play a vital role in public health / photo: SATS
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/394090_45400.jpg
Nordic operator SATS is on a mission to get everyone into exercise, as its CEO, Sondre Gravir, explains to Kate Cracknell
Latest News
The Leisure Database Company (TLDB) has revealed its State of the Fitness Industry Report UK ...
Latest News
The Gym Group’s (TGG) plans and profit forecasts were presented to analysts and investors during ...
Latest News
A new physical activity programme called Big Sister has been launched in the UK to ...
Latest News
Go Fit has been selected by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) as ...
Latest News
Ness, a US startup that is developing a range of wellness-driven credit cards, has launched ...
Latest News
Following a history of supporting US military and service members, F45 has announced a new ...
Latest News
Hyatt is piloting private gyms in five of its US hotels as part of its ...
Latest News
A young girl has died following an incident at the David Lloyd gym at Capability ...
Latest News
New fitness franchise, Circuit Society, has signed its first London location in Bayswater. The 3,000sq ...
Latest News
Active Nottingham, part of Nottingham City Council, has released a children’s book called Can We ...
Latest News
The new £42m Moorways Sports Village will open its doors to the public on Saturday ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: active-net 2022 tackles mental health awareness
More than 100 industry delegates met in person at the annual active-net event at Eastwood Hall in Nottingham on 23-24 March.
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 operator news
Featured operator news: New partnership delivers swimming support to children with disabilities
A new partnership has been launched to provide inclusive swimming for children with mobility, visual and hearing disabilities.
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
Mindbody, Inc
Company profiles
Company profile: Mindbody
Mindbody is the leading technology platform for the wellness industry, featuring an app that allows ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Merrithew™ - Leaders in Mindful Movement™
Merrithew™ enriches the lives of others with responsible exercise modalities and innovative, multidisciplinary fitness offerings ...
Supplier Showcases
Supplier showcase - Pulse Fitness: trusted partner
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Lockers/interior design
Safe Space Lockers Ltd: Lockers/interior design
On demand
Fitness On Demand: On demand
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
Fitness equipment
A Panatta Sport Srl: Fitness equipment
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Runcorn
Halton Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
30-30 Jun 2022
The ICC, Birmingham, Birmingham , United Kingdom
Diary dates
12-13 Sep 2022
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs® Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
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:
Les Mills International
Les Mills International
Partner sites