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The Bannatyne Group is working to reposition itself as an upmarket operator in 2016, centred around a major investment programme and a change in philosophy.

After a tricky 2015, which saw the jailing of former finance director Christopher Watson for defrauding the company out of nearly £8m, the business founded by Duncan Bannatyne plans to build on recent growth momentum to offer an "upmarket service with budget club efficiency". The company has a new top team in place – helmed by managing director Justin Musgrove – which is committed to leading the business into a new era.

At a time when the mid-market has faced competition from both budget clubs and boutiques – a period which has led to rivals LA fitness sold to Pure Gym and Fitness First also put up for sale – Bannatyne Group is working to redefine itself as a premium proposition.

Central to this new strategy is a culture shift which sees the customer journey placed at the heart of the business as part of a growing emphasis on retention.

“In the past we’ve perhaps been too focused on sales, whereas now we’re focusing on people and the customer journey,” Musgrove told Health Club Management.

“We’re upgrading our facilities, bringing in a raft of new technology and drawing on the synergies between our health club, spa and hotel businesses to offer a more upmarket experience.”

The Group is currently mid-way through a £16m investment programme to refurbish its 60-strong estate, while Musgrove hinted that further acquisitions may also be on the cards – following the recent purchase of Clarice House country hotel and spa, as well as the Xpect health club in Braintree.

The company’s gyms will receive additional investment as part of a greater emphasis on functional training, with Technogym’s Omnia 8 rig and also the Queenax system being installed.

Musgrove said that owner Duncan Bannatyne remains “more involved than people think” in the day-to-day running of the business. The pair are also working to build on the success of Bannatyne Spa, which currently features in 37 locations, with 16 more on the drawing board.

“With Bannatyne Health Clubs, Spas and Hotels, you’ve got three great brands which we want to bring closer together and consolidate our position as the dominant operator of country clubs,” added Musgrove, who is ideally placed to oversee such a proposition, having spent 19 years with Center Parcs prior to joining The Bannatyne Group as spa director in 2007.

“We’re also working to enhance the strong social aspect of our clubs, with a new concept cafe bar being rolled out across the portfolio, offering members both healthy options and also the opportunity for indulgence.”

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The Bannatyne Group is working to reposition itself as an upmarket operator in 2016, centred around a major investment programme and a change in philosophy.
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