Gym chain hails turnaround effort

Fitness. Picture: PA

Fitness. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Fitness First posted a drop in annual earnings today but the gym chain insisted its turnaround plan was starting to produce results.

The firm, which has 77 clubs and 191,000 members in the UK, said adjusted earnings dropped 16% to £65.3 million following the second year of a three year transformation programme in which £75 million has been invested.

Globally, the group has 377 clubs and more than 900,000 members after 11 new clubs were opened and 18 closed as part of efforts to strengthen the overall quality of its portfolio.

The group narrowly avoided collapse in 2012 as a result of over expansion. Three years ago it had around 150 clubs in the UK.

The business said it is on track to complete its £200 million investment programme - that has upgraded clubs, boosted staff training and introduced new fitness classes - by the first quarter of next year.

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In the UK, where the group employs around 2,000 people, it said it has so far invested £40 million rebranding 62 of its clubs as underlying earnings in the UK rose for the first time in five years.

Over the past year it opened a new club at Bishopsgate in London, the first UK outlet it has launched since its near collapse.

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Sales at its rebranded UK clubs were up 4% compared to a year ago, while earnings at these clubs jumped 10% in the same period.

It said some of its most popular training classes include the Victoria Pendleton Pro Cycling course and the Team GB Pro Athlete Programme, based on sessions recommended by British athletes.

Chief executive Andy Cosslett said: 'We reached the turning point during the latter part of 2014 as the impact of better results from a growing number of rebranded clubs started to be felt.'

Fitness First is controlled by US buyout group Oaktree Capital.

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