A FAST-GROWING budget gym operator has unveiled ambitious expansion plans north and south of the Border as fitness fans keep faith with low-cost operators.
Peter Roberts, founder and chief executive of PureGym, has 50 UK outlets, including two in Edinburgh and single premises in Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow.
Roberts, who founded the business in 2008, has now outlined plans to expand to 80 gyms by the end of next year and believes that 150 is a realistic target by the end of 2016.
PureGym is to open a further outlet in Edinburgh in the next few weeks at Granton and there are plans for another one in the city’s business district as well as outlets in Aberdeen, East Kilbride and Paisley by the spring. Roberts reckons there is scope for more than 30 Scottish outlets by 2016.
“We are very confident of our expansion plans,” he said. “The lower-cost gym segment has been expanding rapidly, giving people the opportunity to keep fit cheaply.
“The middle and high-end of the fitness market has suffered because people have sometimes been put off by being tied into expensive contracts. But we have gone the other way and it is paying off.
“We also don’t have limited hours. We are giving people the freedom to run their lives as they want.”
Membership at PureGym, which is based in Leeds, starts at £9.99 a month with no fixed contracts, with customers paying month by month. It already has 260,000 members.
To keep prices down, the business eschews the fripperies of better known, more upmarket fitness groups.
“We are very much internet-led,” Roberts said. “You can only book with the centres online, there are no sales people, no reception desk. There are no saunas, steam rooms or swimming pools, just good exercise equipment. We cut out the bits we don’t think everyone wants,” he added.
Despite the low pricing model Roberts said it cost “about £1.2 million to fit out a new PureGym, a useful high hurdle rate against rivals entering the sector”.
Last year the group made a trading profit of £8.5m on turnover of £30m. Roberts and the management team owns 18 per cent of the group, with the rest owned by New York-based private equity firm CCMP.
A flotation is one of a number of future options but Roberts says the firm would need to be bigger, probably about 150 gyms.
PureGym’s strong cash flows also gave the group “credibility” with retail property landlords that they would be around for a significant time, Roberts added.
He said that the company’s experience in Scotland has taught him that the stereotype of Scots as unfit is largely mythical.
“For some unknown reason Scots are keen on health clubs,” he said. “We have done well here.
“It’s fair to say that some Scots may have a bit of a reputation for not eating as healthily as others, but many of them certainly balance that by going to the gym.
“Perhaps our stripped-down, value proposition also helps, because Scots like good value.”