The Gym Group expects to be in profit on reopening
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The Gym Group expects to be in profit on reopening

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Publicly listed operator, The Gym Group (TGG) says it has retained 80 per cent of its members during lockdown, while internal research shows it expects 92 per cent to return.

All memberships were frozen on 20 March and TGG says it received a significant number of cancellations initially, but that this rate slowed, leaving 692,000 members at 9 July, vs 870,000 on 18 March.

CEO, Richard Darwin, said: "We're encouraged by the response of our members, the vast majority of whom are keen to get back to the gym to begin working out again. We look forward to welcoming them back and being able to continue providing affordable fitness for all."

Because TGG only requires 60 per cent of its membership to be active to achieve 'cash neutrality', broker, Peel Hunt, is currently tipping the company with a Buy rating. Shares are trading around 150p against a high in February of 300p, giving a market capitalisation of £253.79m.

TGG raised around £41m through a share issue on 16 April to help it weather the effects of the shutdown, by placing 27.4m new ordinary shares at 150p each.

The company will reopen the majority of its sites on 25 July, but will still offer members the chance to extend the freezing on their membership if they don't feel confident to return, or cannot attend during the – initially more limited – opening hours.

The majority of the TGG's 179 gyms will operate from 6.00am to 10.00pm during the week and from 8.00am to 8.00pm at weekends – 23 sites will initially have shorter hours, opening 8.00am-8.00pm during the week and 9.00am to 5.00pm at weekends. Scottish sites will remain closed awaiting an announcement.

Two sites in Leicester will not reopen due to local lockdown, while London's Oxford Street gym is currently closed for refurbishment.

TGG says it will start trials of its standard 24/7 operating model in a "small number of sites" within weeks, with the aim of returning to 24/7 operations more widely "in the next few months".

“Opening safely is our primary concern," said Darwin, "We're pleased to have been able to work with Government and the rest of the health and fitness sector to determine how best to operate in a COVID-secure way."

TGG will operate in line with the DCMS framework and has also collaborated with Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre to create its own #safewithus operating protocol, which is based on six core principles – listed in the notes below.

The Gym Group's #safewithus protocol

1. SHIELD

Avoid infected people visiting the gym

• Reinforcing Government guidelines to colleagues and members with symptoms to stay at home • Temperature checks for all colleagues at the start of each shift

• Providing options for members to continue to freeze their membership for free

2. PREVENT

Reducing the risk of infection from contact on surfaces

• Contactless entry to be available in all gyms at re-opening • Promoting hand-washing and providing hand sanitiser throughout the gym

• Rigorous cleaning and disinfection regimes, including the use of electrostatic sanitisation spray equipment • Provision of cleaning materials to members for cleaning equipment after use

3. LIMIT

Reducing the social interaction between people

• Restricting the number of people in the gym at any one time to one member per 100 sq ft, in line with Government guidelines, using portal access technology

• Encouraging visits during quieter periods by providing members with a ‘Gym Busyness’ tracker, in the app and on the website, with live and recent historical information on usage patterns in their gym

4. REDUCE

Reducing the risk of infection from airborne transmission

• Enabling social distancing by wider spacing of equipment, revised gym layout and use of screens for additional protection • Encouraging social distancing with communications in the gym via wall posters, digital screens and floor markings

• Utilising best-in-class fresh air ventilation systems

5. SUPPORT

Identifying and supporting vulnerable people

• Providing information and guidance to known vulnerable groups • Identifying vulnerable staff and moving them away from frontline roles

• Promoting home exercise – including a discounted offer for digital at-home fitness classes with partner, Fiit

6. EDUCATE

Explaining, training and ingraining safe practice in the gym

• Providing appropriate training and understanding to all colleagues • Clear communications to members before visiting, on arrival and at all relevant points in the gym

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Publicly listed operator, The Gym Group (TGG) says it has retained 80 per cent of its members during lockdown, while internal research shows it expects 92 per cent to return.
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