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Topnotch returns to the midmarket with new opening in London

Topnotch Health Clubs is relaunching into the fitness sector as Topnotch Gyms in London’s Soho
The new Topnotch is a partnership between Fitness4Less and Affordable Fitness and five private shareholders
Original Topnotch founder Matthew Harris is a major shareholder, but takes a back seat from daily operations
Stuart Rosenberg is managing director and Steve Bradley takes the role of non-executive director
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Topnotch was very forward thinking, we've looked at how we can rebrand it and bring it back in a way that's modern, trendy and urban
– Stuart Rosenberg, managing director, Topnotch Gyms
Credit: Topnotch Gyms

The revival of a classic UK health and fitness brand will see Topnotch Health Clubs relaunching back into the mid-market fitness sector as Topnotch Gyms.

The first location will open on 3 January in Carnaby Street in London’s Soho.

The new club – which will benefit from a £1m fit-out and £300k equipment investment – will be a modern, urban version of the brand that moved into the low-cost fitness market twelve years ago.

Topnotch is being re-ignited as part of a new startup entity, with Matthew Harris, the original founder of the Topnotch chain in 1991, as the leading shareholder of the company, which includes Affordable Fitness, Fitness4Less and five private shareholders.

Harris plans to take a back seat, leaving Stuart Rosenberg on board as MD and Steve Bradley – currently operations director at Fitness4Less – in a non-exec role.

“Matthew founded Topnotch, Steve used to be at Topnotch and I used to work for Topnotch – we've all got fond memories of the concept,” said Rosenberg. “Back in its day, Topnotch was very forward-thinking. We've looked at how we can bring it back in a way that's modern, trendy and urban.

"The first location, in London’s Soho, is in a converted car park and is quite urban looking, so we’re working with the aesthetics of the building,” he said.

Earlier this year, Fitness4Less bought 50 per cent of Affordable Fitness putting the two companies in partnership. The catalyst for the comeback of Topnotch was when Rosenburg discovered that H2’s Soho club, which had closed during the pandemic, was not likely to reopen and approached the Fitness4Less directors about its potential.

While Fitness4Less originally targetd the lower-cost market, the way the chain has developed over the last decade has seen it introduce more upmarket facilities into its clubs, such as swimming pools, spas and steamrooms, which work in the mid-market space.

The new Topnotch club is a pilot to see if some of these Fitness4Less sites can be rebranded as Topnotch as part of its future expansion.

“We did some due diligence and have totally redesigned the concept of the club,” said Rosenberg. “It’s going to have HIIT training studio, which we’ve branded ourselves, called the HIIT Lab – already a tried and tested model at our Worcester club – with HIIT training benches, assault bikes, ski ergs, a huge floor with a large free weights area, yoga classes, spinning, circuit training, martial arts and boxercise.

"We'll also offer Les Mills Body Pump, Body Combat and Grit. Overall there'll be around 60 classes a week. There’ll also be a protein bar at the club, so customers can take a protein drink back to work.”

The club will have spacious changing rooms and showers, with a sauna in each and vast bike parking facilities with room for 150 bikes. London’s cyclists are one of the club’s major target audiences.

“We'll be targeting the cycling community, providing them with a service,” said Bradley. “Authorities such as Transport for London want people to cycle, but they don’t provide the facilities for them to ride bikes in central London. We’re creating a hub where people can store their bikes safely.”

Membership of the club – the new flagship for Topnotch Gyms, which is likely to expand next year based on Q1 2023 performance – starts at £44.99.

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Topnotch Health Clubs is relaunching back into the mid-market fitness sector as Topnotch Gyms with a new club opening on 3 January.
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