Thousands cancelled gym memberships amid lockdown

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One of the UK’s biggest gym companies has said it lost about a fifth of its members during lockdown, despite halting membership payments.

The Gym Group said it had lost 178,000 customers over the past three months.

Its comments came as it set out plans to reopen nearly all of its gyms in England on 25 July, when restrictions on the sector are lifted.

Separately, Restaurant Group, the owner of Wagamama, said one in 10 of its outlets would not open until next year.

The company, which also owns Frankie & Benny’s, said sites where low custom was anticipated, such as airports, would be the ones to stay closed.

Restaurant Group said it aimed to 25% of its eateries open by the end of July, 60% by the end of August, and 90% by the end of September.

Last month, it announced that 120 Frankie & Benny’s sites would close permanently, putting 3,000 jobs at risk.

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‘Encouraging response’

The Gym Group said it would open 160 sites in England on 25 July. Two gyms in locked-down Leicester and one being refurbished in London will stay closed for now.

It added that its 13 sites in Scotland and three in Wales would reopen “as soon as possible after relevant local restrictions are lifted”.

“We are in the process of un-furloughing our colleagues, who will be ready to open the doors of our gyms in England on July 25 and in the other home nations once restrictions are lifted,” said chief executive Richard Darwin.

“We are 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.”

For Gym Group’s 692,000 remaining members, direct debit payments are due to restart, although they can request that they are frozen for longer.

Shifting trends

On Thursday, two of the UK’s biggest High Street names, John Lewis and Boots, announced 5,300 job cuts.

Boots said 4,000 jobs would go, while John Lewis is shutting down eight stores, putting 1,300 jobs at risk.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, told the BBC’s Today programme that businesses which announced job cuts had reported that coronavirus had accelerated existing shopping trends, with people shopping online rather than on the High Street.

“What the crisis has done is really forced people to look so carefully at the structure of their businesses, particularly those who have a strong digital presence, and seeing what the balance is between the number of stores and the investment in digital and reducing potentially the number of stores,” she said.

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