The Gym Group has seen 178000 members leave since the Covid-19 lockdown started, the budget fitness chain said as it outlined reopening plans.
The firm, led by Richard Darwin, is among Britain’s gym operators that had to close sites in March when the lockdown started.
It will soon start to welcome back customers after the government yesterday announced the sector can reopen from July 25, with social distancing measures in place.
Members at The Gym Group were offered a ‘free freeze’, with no payments taken while branches were closed. The group today said that in the first few days after closing there were a significant number of membership cancellations, but this rate subsequently slowed considerably.
As at July 9 there were 692,000 members, compared to 870,000 on March 18, with an average age of 32.
Darwin was upbeat though as he said 160 sites across England will open on July 25, subject to any temporary local lockdown restrictions, and 13 sites in Scotland and three in Wales will follow as soon as possible after relevant local restrictions are lifted.
He told the Evening Standard he is happy the firm has a “spread of sites in London that covers both residential areas and central London”. He added that he expects usage in zone one sites to be limited to begin with, before improving as people return to the office.
A number of health and safety measures will be in place at branches, such as temperature checks for staff at the start of each shift, and there will be restrictions on the number of people in the gym at any one time.
The bulk of the firm’s gyms will initially operate 6am-10pm on weekdays and 8am-8pm on weekends. The company will trial 24/7 in a small number of branches over the next few weeks and expect to return that model more widely within the next few months.
Darwin said: “Opening safely is our primary concern and we have comprehensive plans in place for both our colleagues and members as we re-open our gyms...Together with the Government we recognise the significant benefits of exercise in improving the nation's physical and mental well-being, particularly at this time as we respond to the pandemic.”
He added: “We are encouraged by the response of our members, the vast majority of whom are keen to get back to the gym to begin working out again."