Fitness First runs out of puff as consumers prioritise price and flexibility

The future of the fitness industry has been put under a cloud after Fitness First announced it is selling a quarter of its Australian gyms, suggesting gym operators need to up the ante in order to survive.

 

Fitness First is the world’s largest health club and gym operator, with more than one million members in more than 400 clubs.

 

It was founded in the United Kingdom in 1993, and opened its first club in Australia in 2000.

 

Fitness First has confirmed it will sell 24 of its 97 Australian gyms as UK-based parent company Fitness First Group attempts to shake $890 million of debt.

 

The company, which will also axe clubs in Britain, has suffered from weak consumer spending and the rise of budget gyms. It has also copped criticism for its inflexible contracts.

 

In an announcement last week, the company said the Australian clubs being sold are underperforming.

 

“We have identified 24 clubs that do not fit our vision for the brand, and these clubs are being put on the market for sale,” Fitness First Australia managing director Pete Manuel said.

 

The clubs being sold include nine in NSW, six in Victoria, five in Queensland, three in South Australia and one in WA.

 

Fitness First founder Tony de Leede, who left the business more than three years ago, told BusinessesDay he was eyeing off the clubs for his new budget gym chain, Fit n Fast.

 

Fit n Fast Australia claims it offers cheap prices and flexible contracts, in an attempt to contrast with the Fitness First offering.

 

The chain is currently adding 10 new clubs per year across the country, with plans to have more than 200 clubs in the next few years.

 

While the clubs are designed to accommodate any kind of workout, the company prides itself on its signature QUICKIE workout, which offers a results-driven workout in 30 minutes.

 

“We live in a very busy world, and people have very little time and are very conscious of what they spend,” a Fit n Fast spokesperson says.

 

“We have developed a concept that not only accommodates people’s time but also their wallets, without compromising on the facilities.”

 

The news comes less than five months after the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations released statistics highlighting the growth of the fitness industry,

 

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