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Sophie Lawler reveals Total Fitness is working on a new health club model

The middle market is making a strong return in a post-lockdown UK fitness market
Total Fitness CEO, Sophie Lawler, said the company had already seen changes in its membership profiles
39 per cent of Total Fitness new joiners were previously non-gym members
Lawler revealed that the operator was now looking to develop an entirely new club model
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Total Fitness plans to launch a new-style health club model, with plans already in the development stages, according to Total Fitness CEO, Sophie Lawler.

Speaking exclusively to HCM, Lawler said the operator – which has 15 clubs in the North of England and Wales – is currently refining the concept: "Over the next 12 months, we will be nailing down and bringing to life a new, conceptual model," she revealed.

"It will be the basis of our future clubs, which I can see us starting to open in a couple of years.

"These won’t be a replica of our huge Total Fitness clubs – they'll be smaller facilities and very different from what we have now – but they will clearly be Total Fitness clubs thanks to the purpose, intent and fitness philosophy that will be integral to any new models we bring through.

"This is our conceptual challenge right now: how we make a very different club be authentically Total Fitness."

Lawler also hints that Total Fitness will also be shifting geographies and targeting locations in the south of England.

"In terms of where those clubs might be, I’m a huge believer in northern markets, and a huge believer in the middle market, and there’s a lot of white space here," she said.

"But we’ll also be looking to the south because we’re under-represented there and I believe we have a responsibility to serve that middle-market segment."

There will also be new workout products.

"We’ll be launching our signature small group workout product by the end of this year, which we’re calling Squad Sessions, or ‘Squads’ for short," Lawler said.

"We’re working with our member focus groups to refine this product as we speak, and we’re really proud of the work that’s been done on the launch – it’s perfect for those who crave social or connected workouts, with four people per session working out with one of our trainers.

"Initially we’ll be offering a mix of cardio and resistance to give a full-body workout and we expect people to either book with their mates or join an open squad.

"The product will be developed over the next year or so and ultimately we may even experiment with variable pricing. It will be priced to ensure member value, though, with introductory prices up to £10 per session."

Lawler said the middle market is making a strong return in a post-lockdown fitness market and that the company is also seeing a shift in its customer base.

"Our new members are different from what we’ve seen before: 39 per cent were previously non-gym members, and 44 per cent are switchers," Lawler told HCM.

"A significant number of these (48 per cent) have traded up from lower-cost services, such as budget gyms.

"Among those new to fitness, far more of them have come from lower-income groups than has been the case at Total Fitness historically.

"And they’re younger too: 37 per cent are aged under 34, where normally this age group accounts for 15–20 per cent of our joiners."

For Lawler this means one thing – the middle market is returning.

"I’ve always been a massive advocate of the middle market – of a reasonably priced, full-service offering – and that seems to be coming through now," she said.

"New audiences are seemingly prepared to pay a middle-market premium because they desire variety and, importantly, space. In fact, we’ve been doing some research among new joiners and the key driver for joining – and I’m talking across the board – is variety and quality, where historically it’s always been convenience and price.

"This is a monumental shift from what I’ve seen in the industry for the last 20 years and, if it proves to be permanent, is a real wake-up call."

• To read the full interview with Lawler, in which she also discusses Total Fitness going through a CVA earlier this year, click here for HCM Issue 10/2021

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Total Fitness plans to launch a new-style health club model, with plans already in the development stages, according to Total Fitness CEO, Sophie Lawler.
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