Number of locations
|Andy Cosslett, CEO|
|Owner||Oaktree Capital Management|
Fitness First is the largest privately owned health club group in the world. It consists of more than 360 Fitness First clubs worldwide reaching just over 927,000 members in 16 countries. In the UK alone there are 78 Fitness First clubs with over 171,000 members. In 2005, the company was acquired by BC Partners, a London-based private equity group.
Since 2012, it has been owned by Oaktree Capital Management through a £550 million debt-for-equity swap, absolving the company of external debt. As of 2014, there are 377 clubs and more than 900,000 members globally.
The first Fitness First club was opened in 1993 in Bournemouth as a squash club by British investor Sir Tony Beer. In 2000 the 100th club opened in Cologne, Germany, and expanded throughout Asia and 11 clubs in Australia.
In Australia, Fitness First took over a number of Living Well Lady locations owned by the Hilton Group. They also bought the 11-gym Healthland chain from an administrator, and now own 68 gyms across Australia. In late 2006, Fitness First reached the milestone of 500 clubs worldwide, marked by the opening of the fourth club in Sydney, Australia. On 1 June 2012 Fitness First decided to sell off 24 of its 97 Australian clubs as part of a restructure of the UK parent company.
In 2003 the company was sold to Cinven for £400 million and later sold to BC Partners for £835 million in 2005. The company opened its first club in India in 2008. Fitness First introduced their signature training programme to clubs in 2009 – Freestyle Group Training. Andy Cosslett joined as the new CEO in 2012 – following a restructure of the Australian business and the Oaktree and Marathon takeover.
The company opened the concept club ‘The Zone’ in Australia in 2013 and invested £77.5 million in club upgrades. In 2014, Fitness First launched their Global Rebrand and opened ‘BEAT’; a heart rate based training micro gym in London, and their $7 million flagship Australia club in Melbourne the same year.
Products and services
Fitness First has a range of different products and services including BodyFirst, Group Fitness Classes, Personal Training, Team Workouts, cardio machines, and operates annual New You Achievement Awards to recognise the progress of members.
Fitness First is also the company behind International Fitness Week which takes place each February. Initiatives in 2009 have included the launch of Strictly Fit in conjunction with BBC Worldwide, a low impact aerobics group class open to members and non-members.
The Asian arm of Fitness First (with 88 clubs covering Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand), in addition to offering the above products, has recently developed their 'Lose Big' programme, which was developed for the Biggest Loser Asia, with Fitness First being the anchor sponsor and the employer of the head trainers. The Lose Big Program is a 13-week weight management program designed for those with substantial weight loss needs.
The Asia business is widely regarded as the regional market leader. Simon Flint, Asia CEO (as reported by the Bangkok Post)reported plans to expand the 6 country portfolio to 130 clubs by 2018 with the possibility of new markets being added to the portfolio.
In June 2013, the Thailand operation entered into a lease with Siam Piwat to fit-out and operate a 40,000 sqft space in the Bangkok's famous SIam Paragon Mall, positioning the club as a 'flagship', offering a range of new innovative technologies and training regimes.
On 21 January 2014 Fitness First in Australia officially relaunched, changing its logo and beginning to refresh all its clubs nationwide, as well as introducing some more flexible contracts. Fitness guru Jane Fonda was the brand ambassador for the relaunch.
Fitness First operates in many different countries so it has many different membership options around the world.
Fitness First (Australia) offers a number of membership plans on different terms. Some membership contracts have a minimum term of one year and incur a cancellation fee on exit. Others are billed on a fortnightly basis and can be cancelled with 4-week notice. On the "home" plan, members can access only one Fitness First location. Other plans allow members access to any standard Fitness First gym within Australia. Limitations apply on access to international Fitness First gyms. Fees start from $29.90 per month.
Historical cases exist where direct debit accounts are still debited after the member has cancelled their membership.
In a July 2004 study comparing Fitness First with other Australian gyms, Fitness First respondents were less likely to have been shown how to use equipment by a qualified staff member, offered a fitness assessment or advised on an appropriate exercise routine.
In August 2008, Fitness First took a club member to the Australian New South Wales (NSW) Supreme Court to recover a $200 cancellation fee. The court ruled in favor of Fitness First, although she could not afford to pay and was no longer able to use the gym on medical grounds. The patient explained her medical condition before signing up and was instructed to sign the contract. Fitness First sought action to ensure that gym contracts with clients were still legally valid even if the court were to find that the client did not understand what he or she had signed. Fitness First's victory on appeal overturned a prior decision against the company by the NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, which had found that a contract required a "meeting of the minds, in that they each fully know and understand the terms and conditions of the agreement". The Supreme Court found that the Tribunal had erred in a matter of law.
In March 2009, a Fitness First trainer allegedly attacked a member after a dispute about closing times, pushing him down a flight of stairs. The member spent the night in hospital with a broken nose and seven stitches to the forehead from a deep gash. Police are investigating.
In May 2009, the Australian consumer magazine "Choice" found Fitness First to have the most aggressive psychological techniques in getting customers to sign complicated contracts and not explaining what the cancellation policy is, in a test involving "shadow shoppers" visiting two gyms run by Fitness First, Contours, Fernwood Fitness, Curves and Virgin Active.
List of countries
- United Kingdom
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
- Hong Kong
- Thomas, Nathalie (24 May 2014). "Fitness First raises first external debt since restructuring". The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
- Shapland, Mark (12 May 2015). "Fitness First drops pounds as earnings and profits fall but group maintains it is on the right programme". This Is Money. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
- fitnessfirst Australia FAQ
- NSW: Gym wins court appeal for fee from sick member. AAP General News Wire. Sydney: Aug 7, 2008.
- Official website
- Choice magazine:Gyms It’s a jungle out there .... and our gym survey discovered plenty of pitfalls for the unwary. accessed 9/11/2008
- Survey of Gym Chains: Fitness first and Fernwood
- Consumer Affairs Victoria: Unfair contract terms - Health and fitness centres
- Fitness First at WN
- Fitness First cancellation policy could have been much clearer, gym membership
- Singapore website