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Exclusive: LA fitness ‘premiumising’ London and looking to grow

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LA fitness has outlined plans for growth and potential future investment as the operator confirms it is nearing the end of its CVA process.

Speaking exclusively to Health Club Management, LA fitness CEO Martin Long confirmed that, of the 33 clubs originally earmarked for disposal, 18 have since been sold and an additional five landlords have found new tenants, including the site in Chester which is now trading under the Nuffield brand. Agreement is due to be reached on the final nine or 10 clubs by the end of this month, with some due to transfer to new owners as early as this week. One club – Bedford Park – will close on Friday (14 November) of this week.

The remaining clubs – of which there will be “approaching 50 once everything is tied up by the end of the month” – will be predominantly in London and the south-east. And this core group of clubs has performed well, in spite of “significant disruption” to the estate since the CVA was announced in March, with joiners up 10 per cent and revenues up 4 per cent.

Capital will begin to be released to the entire estate at the end of Q1 2015, with all clubs due to receive investment – including completing the roll-out of LA fitness’ new Primal functional training zones and programming.

In addition, throughout the course of 2015, a further seven of the 13 central London clubs will be upgraded and rebranded to the LAX by LA fitness brand – the operator’s premium offering. These will join the existing three LAX clubs – St Botolph’s in the City of London, South Kensington, and London Wall, which is due to be relaunched as LAX in the first half of December.

“We’re ‘premiumising’ our offering in London,” confirmed Long. “At this stage I don’t plan for any more than 10 LAX clubs in total, all in prime London locations. However, even those clubs that remain under the LA fitness brand will be brought up a level in terms of their offering.

“In 2015 most of the investment will be within the M25, but the entire estate will have received a facelift by January 2016.”

There are also plans for growth going forward. “I would like to be able to open new clubs, including experimenting with new formats,” said Long. “Our shareholders are currently the banks that have seen us through the CVA, and they’ve been fantastic supporters, but they aren’t the long-term holders of the business. We have a lot of resources available for stage one of our plans, but at some point during 2015 or 2016 we’ll be looking for new investors to help us accelerate our plans and grow.”

“We’re quietly optimistic about 2015,” he concluded. “We’ve retained all the best clubs, we’ve cleared up the financials, we’ve kept the morale of our team up and we’re left with a business that’s performing well. Having fewer clubs allows us to spend more time thinking about the nuances and focusing on each club a bit more.”

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LA fitness has outlined plans for growth and potential future investment as the operator confirms it is nearing the end of its CVA process.
HAF,FIT,IND,PHR
There will be 10 LAX clubs in London by the end of 2015, says CEO Martin Long