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Virgin Active co-founder, Frank Reed, partners with Debenhams to trial in-store gyms

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We believe that by teaming with Sweat! we will optimise the space that is available in some of our stores
– Sergio Bucher, chief executive, Debenhams

Debenhams is partnering with former Virgin Active co-founder Frank Reed to launch in-store gyms as part of the retailer’s strategy to attract more customers and a younger female base.

Reed’s Sweat! gyms are set to be trialled in three stores from early 2018 under a membership model.

The deal is part of the Debenhams Redesigned strategy, which involves working with strategic partners to deliver its plan of making the chain more appealing to shoppers. The struggling chain reported that annual profits dipped 44 per cent to £59m (US$78m, €66m) on Thursday (26 October).

The relationship will see Debenhams broaden its reach to the Sweat! customer base with cross-marketing opportunities planned such as enrolling each Sweat! member into the Debenhams Beauty Club.

“We believe that by teaming with Sweat! we will optimise the space that is available in some of our stores whilst offering an attractive and credible leisure experience to customers,” said Sergio Bucher, Debenhams chief executive. “The partnership is a step closer to establishing Debenhams as a destination for leisure experiences and gives customers more reasons to visit us more often.”

Sweat! focuses on attracting female gym-goers. It has 600-800 visits to each of its five gyms every day with a 55 per cent female customer base attending clubs 2-3 times per week.

It opened its fifth standalone gym this month in Chelmsford, with sites also in Walsall, Sheffield, Glasgow and Greater Manchester. Facilities are brightly branded and offer dedicated studios for spinning and aerobics.

“Partnering with Debenhams provides Sweat! with access to attractive locations and the opportunity to engage with the retailers established loyal customer base," said Reed, who co-founded Virgin Active in 1997.

“UK gym usage is forecast to reach the 20 per cent penetration rates achieved by parts of Europe and the US by 2020 and by providing a differentiated product in a place that is convenient to customers we anticipate that we will capitalise on growth for leisure experiences.”

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Debenhams is partnering with former Virgin Active co-founder Frank Reed to launch in-store gyms as part of the retailer’s strategy to attract more customers and a younger female base.
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Sweat! gyms are set to be trialled in three Debenhams stores from early 2018
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