‘Low-aerosol’ classes are part of safety focus for Holmes Place Germany, says COO, Ian Turley
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‘Low-aerosol’ classes are part of safety focus for Holmes Place Germany, says COO, Ian Turley

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Ian Turley, COO of Holmes Place Germany, says it was important the operator took a “hard line on safety” during reopening, respecting German government guidelines on reduced capacities and the delivery of ‘low-aerosol’ classes.

‘Low-aerosol’ or ‘low-cardiovascular’ classes limit intensity so members don’t get above a rate of perceived exertion of around 70-75 per cent.

The company also introduced some of its own safety measures: “Temperature checking is a self-imposed rule that our members really appreciate,” he says, “we also created a charter that all members have to sign, outlining the key restrictions, which included no towel service, no changing rooms or use of showers. This means they have to come ready for their workout.

“Our approach was all about ‘safety first’,” he said, “the low-aerosol restriction was something we were mandated to do by the government but was also different by region across Germany, so we had to adapt to these rules.

“We’re using a blended approach, with these lower-energy classes indoors and then higher-energy classes outdoors, plus we're offering live streaming,” he explained.

“We’ve had a lot of good PR from members and the wider social media community, saying we’re taking safety seriously.”

Speaking during a Les Mills webinar, Turley talked through Holmes Place Germany’s experience of reopening, saying “Be ready for anything and be prepared for the reopening to be harder than the close-down.

“Members will be keen to get back to the club, but they’ll be expecting to come back to the club with everything as it was previously – it won’t be, so be really clear in terms of communications and explaining why restrictions are in place.

“I’d also strongly recommend being flexible – we’re running 15-, 30- and 45-minute sessions and very few 60-minute classes,” he said. “With the restrictions on capacity, it doesn’t make sense to run longer classes and booking has now also become mandatory.

“We’re focussing more on the volume and mix of classes now, due to the restrictions,” said Turley, “In some regions, we can only offer a maximum of seven spaces per class, due to distancing rules. Therefore, we’ve had to find ways to cater to as many members as possible.

Turley said with shorter classes on the timetable, clubs are currently able to accommodate demand, which – in week two after reopening – is running at around 40-50 per cent of the levels normally experienced at this time of year.

The operator expects to be up to 65-70 per cent within a month, 80-90 per cent by week eight and is hoping to be back to some semblance of normality by September.

Holmes Place Germany has fast-tracked a digital membership, which is now available for €9.90/month. “We’re offering a package which gives access to live streaming, on-demand classes via the app and access to online challenges by Netpulse,” says Turley. “We expect a lot of prospective members who are thinking of joining to take up that option as a trial.

"The pandemic has sharpened our minds and digital is something that will be a staple of our membership options moving forward,” he said.

Legally, Holmes Place was allowed to continue to draw direct debits during the closure but Turley says they were mindful to offer good levels of compensation: “While we were still able to debit membership fees, we felt that offering different compensation options was a good idea,” he explains.

Members were offered a number of options: "Twenty per cent opted to have guest privileges and 25 per cent chose personal training credits, while ten per cent chose not to take any compensation at all,” said Turley. “They've perhaps identified themselves as being among our most loyal members.

Reopening with restrictions has prompted Holmes Place to introduce a second set of compensations to keep members satisfied: “If they don’t feel safe to come back, we offer to freeze their membership,” he said.

"The basis of the second tier of compensation was designed for those members who felt uncomfortable coming back so soon or whose usage would be compromised too much due to the facility restrictions. Our approach was to talk with our members and understand their personal situation and above all else, keep them happy.

“We’re being flexible with members in terms of how we’re responding to the situation," he said, explaining that new member sales will be ‘tough’, but they’re making progress by offering shorter memberships: “We normally run 12- or 24-month contacts, but we're now offering a three-month option. It’s attractive because they get a premium membership without the commitment or worry.

“We’re running with safety and flexibility as our key messages,” he explained, “and also placing a strong focus on health and wellbeing-based programming.”

The pandemic is also shaping direction and policy. Turley says Holmes Place Germany is launching a 12-week immunity health fitness programme that will focus on helping members maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and a healthy weight – all designed to help them stay well going forward, whatever life throws at them – including a potential second wave if it comes.

“We believe that – more than ever – people will be thinking about joining clubs that offer these kinds of solutions,” said Turley.

On that point he gives a strong warning to the industry to be prepared, saying: “The biggest fear now is that there will be a second wave in the autumn and it could be worse than the first. We’re really cautioning ourselves to get ready for that and if you’re not thinking about that, it’s a mistake.

“Avoid the pain of having to go through it again. Keep your systems in place so you’re able to switch things back on again if you need to go back into lockdown or restricted use,” he said. “For instance, we've built a specific studio for virtual classes, so that if we get a second wave, we’ll be able to offer a wider range of classes immediately.

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Ian Turley, COO of Holmes Place Germany, says it was important the operator took a “hard line on safety” during reopening, respecting German government guidelines on reduced capacities and the delivery of ‘low-aerosol’ classes.

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