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Parkwood to seek health and fitness opportunities

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Andrew Holt, managing director of Parkwood Leisure, the public sector leisure management division of Parkwood holdings, has said the time could be right for the company to enter the private health and fitness market.

Speaking exclusively to Leisure Management, Holt said that Parkwood, which currently operates fitness suites through its public sector contracts, had deliberately stayed out of the private sector, but that there may now be opportunities.

“We stayed out of the private health and fitness market for two main reasons,” he said. “Firstly, by the time we were of a size to look at that market we’d probably have missed the boat, and secondly, it’s very expensive. The investment was huge and we just didn’t want to take that sort of risk.

“I’m glad we kept out, there’s been a lot of heartache, a lot of companies have struggled and share prices for most of the big companies have fallen. I also think the size of the market has been over-exaggerated.”

However, he now believes that, using his approach of investing, but not over-investing, and keeping prices at a moderate level, there could be room for Parkwood to move in.

“I think the fitness market has peaked and troughed,” he said. “There’s been a big shake up and I think there are going to be opportunities now for companies like ourselves.”

The move could signal a change of strategy for Parkwood as it plans for the future. Holt said he believes PFI leisure schemes – a large part of Parkwood’s business – will slow down and eventually disappear in three to five years; the government has already issued guidelines suggesting local authorities shouldn’t look at PFI leisure unless capital investment is greater then £20m.

He also said that the establishment of leisure trusts has made life harder for companies like his.

“It’s difficult bidding against leisure trusts,” he said. “They have two huge advantages: they don’t have to make a profit for their shareholders and they are able to attract substantial reductions in the National Non-Domestic rates.”

The company is also looking to boost its contract catering division, particularly seeking opportunities within operations including a leisure element. See full interview with Andrew Holt, LM July/August 2004 – call +44 (0)1462 471913 or visit www.leisuremanagement.co.uk for details

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Andrew Holt, managing director of Parkwood Leisure, the public sector leisure management division of Parkwood holdings, has said the time could be right for the company to enter the private health and fitness market.
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