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PureGym's Rebecca Passmore: bounceback since lockdown 'much better than expected'

Number of health club members returning to gyms since lockdown has beaten all expectations
PureGym MD Rebecca Passmore said the bounceback reflected consumers' confidence in returning to fitness facilities
In the first 28 days since lockdown restrictions were lifted, PureGym saw membership grow 10 per cent
Passmore also revealed that there has been a radical change in the way members used gyms
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The number of health club members returning to gyms since lockdown has beaten all expectations, according to Rebecca Passmore, UK managing director of PureGym.

Talking exclusive to HCM, Passmore said the bounceback was both strong and "continuing", reflecting consumers' confidence in returning to fitness facilities.

"We're now in the eighth week of trading in England and performance has been really strong – as it has in other regions," Passmore said

"The reality is that it's been much better than we expected.

"What's really interesting is that the bounce back is continuing – it hasn't been a case of an initial strong influx of members returning, followed by a slowdown.

"What we are seeing is that, as each week goes, more and more new members are coming into the market."

Passmore said that the return from "Lockdown 3" has also been markedly quicker than it was from the first pandemic lockdown, back in the summer of 2020.

"Coming out of the latest lockdown, our underlying paying membership base was 9 per cent lower than it was after lockdown one – so we've had an even bigger mountain to climb than we did last year," she said, adding that PureGym "wasn't profit-making at the point of opening back up".

"But we've seen a much quicker bounce back this time around.

"In the first 28 days following lockdown 1 (in 2020), we saw a 4 per cent uplift in membership numbers. This time, after lockdown 3, that figure was 10 per cent."

Passmore also revealed that there has been a radical change in the way members used gyms.

"What is really interesting is people are now visiting us more often – the level of activity per member is up significantly," she said.

"The frequency of visits per active member it's about 10 per cent higher than we've seen in the past."

"We're currently already seeing around 95 per cent of the visits that we saw pre-COVID-19, even though our membership base is significantly down (PureGym had 1.14m UK members in December 2019 – compared to 1.1 million as of 3 June 2021).

"We've also seen that visiting times are shifting.

"In the past, our traditional peak hours have always been 5pm to 8pm – but has now changed and we're seeing less people come during those times.

"Instead, what we've seen is a significantly higher level of visits between 7am and 3pm and the hours between 8pm and 11pm."

Passmore added that PureGym "was not alone" in seeing a strong return to business.

"Talking to other operators, it's very clear that the bounce back for the whole industry has been really very strong," she said.

"I believe the robust return we've seen is a really clear indication of the increased importance people now place on health and wellness across – and especially the role that health clubs and gyms play in achieving it."

PureGym has opened 13 new gyms in the UK since 12 April – 10 of which opened in the first week of lockdown restrictions being lifted in England.

The group is preparing to open five new sites in the coming weeks, in Stevenage, Stowmarket, London Angel, Torquay and Bicester.

In April, PureGym revealed that its group-wide revenue had declined by £177m during 2020, as it lost 37 per cent of its trading days due to pandemic lockdowns.

PureGym started 2020 with 504 clubs across Europe (the UK, Denmark, Switzerland and Poland).

During the year, the group closed operations in Poland, where it had 19 gyms.

As of 3 June, PureGym has a total of 506 across three countries – 286 in the UK, 180 in Denmark and 40 in Switzerland.

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The number of health club members returning to gyms since lockdown has beaten all expectations, according to Rebecca Passmore, UK managing director of PureGym.

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