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features

HCM People: Dan Summerson

MD, Everlast Gyms

We’re gearing up for global expansion through joint ventures with our retail partners

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 10

Where are you with the UK business?
We stripped the portfolio back slightly when we started out two years ago, disposing of sites that weren’t investable or where there were landlord issues.

We wanted to optimise the estate, make sure we believed in all the sites we kept and then elevate those by totally overhauling them before setting out on a path to growth.

We’re at that stage now and over the next three to five years we’re aiming to grow from 60 to 100 gyms in the UK.

And you’re going global?
We’re also gearing up for global expansion and although we have the portfolio of clubs in the UK, we don’t want to build our own clubs overseas, so we’re looking for joint venture (JV) partners who want to make Everlast part of their journey.

They’ll ultimately own the properties and run them under a licence or franchise agreements.

Why this approach?
Because we’re part of retail giant Frasers Group, we have the opportunity to extend existing retail partnerships to develop the Everlast Gyms brand globally.

We’re looking for the right partners who are winners in their markets to get global reach and scale quickly.

We've already got huge JV partners across the globe – in places such as Indonesia and Malaysia, for example – and Frasers Group is also expanding in other world regions, so we've got plenty of partners with whom to collaborate.

What interest are you expecting?
Frasers Group is having meetings with JV partners and they’re just as interested in taking an Everlast Gym as they are our other brands, such as Sports Direct, because they believe in the future of the fitness industry. In some cases, they want to talk more about the gyms than the retail.

We’re responding to that demand and will be offering them the Everlast brand alongside our retail concepts.

So your new flagship gym in Gateshead has been planned as part of this strategy?
The aim has been to create a flagship site, while also using it to demonstrate all the different workout modalities and concepts we’ve developed over the last two years.

As we start our global expansion, we want to have a central point where potential JV partners can browse, see which concepts would work for them and decide what to put in their own Everlast Gyms.

They may not have the 37,000sq ft we have, but we can show them how the different elements would scale to fit their space and best suit their target audience.

It's great to have all the different Everlast concepts in one place – it’s like a shopping centre for gyms.

Every gym we’ve done so far has taken us on a journey and this concept is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

What led you to create such a wide range of workout options?
What’s been really exciting about the journey so far is that in the UK, since we launched the brand, we’ve been systematically ‘elevating’ our clubs by upgrading them.

We brought the portfolio together via a number of acquisitions, so it’s been an important part of the strategy to bring them all into the same look and feel.

As a result of this legacy, however, many of the Everlast sites in the UK differed in terms of size and layout, meaning we’ve had to develop concepts that are super scalable, so we can drop them in, depending on the space that’s available. This has given us a highly flexible portfolio of IPs and workout options.

What will the JV business arrangement be?
We’re flexible about the contractual arrangements, so it will depend on how they want to do it. We’re fortunate we can be flexible.

How many JV clubs are you aiming for
I’d hate to put a number on it, as the potential is enormous. We expect JV partners to take multiple sites.

What size will they be?
We’ve created a number of different models in our JV pack. These range from 12,000sq ft to 40,000sq ft+ so very different models, different sets of costs and different EBITDA numbers they can return.

We want to create options for our partners.

Tell us about the Gateshead development
The site is a former Debenhams department store in the Metrocentre and Frasers Group has taken the whole 137,000sq ft on three floors, putting the 37,000sq ft gym on the top floor, a 50,000sq ft Sports Direct downstairs and the Flannels clothes brand on the ground floor.

We’re aiming to roll out this same model in other former large retail sites in the next few years – we’re negotiating on other Debenhams, for example – so we’re going in at scale.

What’s inside the Gateshead site?
It’s 40,000 sq ft and has a lot of open plan. It’s got all the boutique elements, as well as all the Big Box elements. I don’t think there’s anything that looks like it or could compete with it in the UK. It’s something completely different.

We’ve set the whole club up so all the spaces are usable throughout the day, rather than there being areas that are used for two or three hours a day and then just collect dust for the rest of the time – as you get in many health clubs.

There are also a lot of areas that have three or more concepts in one to create more engagement.

Give us a rundown on the group exercise options
We’ve got a strong range of group classes that take place throughout the day.

There’s a HIIT offering called Hustle, which has four specific zones and is our take on a traditional HIIT class, but in a cooler, quirky environment and powered by heart rate training.

It’s got everything from SkiErgs to assault bikes, functional training and body-weight training.

There are no treadmills, as Hustle has been designed to be super low-impact and accessible to everybody.

It’s one of those zones that can be use throughout the day, so you'll see PTs in there delivering sessions, for example and it’s ideal for people who are a little intimidated by the main gym floor. We’ve got dumbbells in there and benches and plyo boxes. Rather than being a shut off area, it’s a cage, so it feels like the gym floor.

The Everlast bike workout is called Cranked and takes place in a pumping, immersive studio, with special lighting and music, while Breathe is the holistic mind-body concept and involves yoga/Pilates, stretching and mobility work. It’s been designed to get people feeling better and offer them a bit of escapism through things such as guided breathwork.

Haymaker is a boxing concept, as you can tell by the name, and has been designed so 50 per cent of the time it’s a combination of kettlebell work, resistance training and sports conditioning and then the other half is building on boxing combinations.

We’re not appealing specifically to people who are super into boxing, but are focusing on improving technique, building confidence and skill.

Who’s delivering the classes?
At the moment it’s all about live workouts and all our classes are coach-led.

We may go down the virtual route at some point as an additional service, at certain times of day, but the main focus now is very much about delivering through our people.

The studios are also being used by people outside of class time – you see members in there all the time working out, so our plan to make the whole club useable all day is really working.

What happens on the gym floor?
We’ve created seven different styles of workouts and strength is a big part of the gym floor – it’s very popular today with both women and men.

Weights used to be a men’s zone, but it’s equal now. Women love lifting and training with weights, so we’ve shrunk our cardio areas and expanded resistance. It’s been part of our strategy across all our sites to expand into that area.

We’ve also created specialised gym floor zones. The Apex is a functional space with rigs that’s been designed to enable people to train for sports racing, preparing them compete in events such as Hyrox and Athx.

Then we have the 1910 concept [the year the brand was founded in the Bronx, New York], which is a pure boxing brand with a full boxing ring, along with boxing-style workouts. It fits with our brand and has a heritage feel to it.

We also have an area called Backbone, which is all about lifting and strength – at the Gateshead site we’ve got ten platforms.

It’s all about platform eduction – teaching people who want to use platforms and rigs the right technique in smaller groups.

You get a workout, but there’s a lot of education and smaller group training is very popular in America which helps with our global expansion plans.

There’s also a huge gym floor with plate-loaded equipment, free weights and an extensive cardio area.

Are these global concepts?
Yes, we looked globally for concepts we knew would work well in our target markets, while also linking with our heritage. It’s important when growing JV partnerships to ensure there are concepts to suit every market.

Do you have a recovery zone?
We’ve created spaces for recovery called Activate. This is the first location where we’re going to be using Hyperice products, such as Normatec recovery boots, and massage guns, along with chill tubs and saunas for contrast bathing.

We’ve had a recovery zone in all of our elevated sites so far, but because we’ve got the luxury of more space and believe recovery is a strong trend, we’ve enhanced it in Gateshead, adding rentable physio rooms, so physios can deliver private treatments, as well as using the Activate area with their clients.

It’s an unbelievable set-up – we believe it’s the biggest hybrid gym in the UK.

How much of the Gateshead gym will be open to non-members?
Normally Sports Direct and Everylast Gyms have separate entrances, but this is the first club connected directly to the Sports Direct by escalators, which means we can cross-market them.

The gym’s smoothie bar and cafe – the Flavore Bar – will be accessible for non-members and people coming in from the car park and heading down to the Sports Direct, so we can generate additional revenue from the retailing and F&B and subtly introduce them to the gym environment.

We’re serving barista coffee because the quality of coffee on retail parks is high and as that’s the kind of environment we’re increasingly going to be trading in, we need to know if we put coffee in it will be excellent.

We’ve also added a laptop zone, so people can stay and work at the gym if they choose to.

We think we’re one of the first in the world to combine retail, co-working and gym in this way.

Tell us about the transport links
Metrocentre Gateshead is very well connected, so has strong links to big catchments. It’s got rail and bus links and is right next to the AI. You can park in the multi-storey car park and walk straight into the gym without needing to go into the Metrocentre itself.

We also offer really good bike storage.

How many members are you aiming for?
We’re targeting at least 10,000 members. At some of our smaller sites, we’ve achieved that number.

How important is the original Everlast brand?
It had zero connection a few years back – there was no retail in our stores and no connection with boxing equipment – but over the last two years we’ve brought in more retail and this has also been elevated, so the sportswear that’s being produced is of a high standard.

We stay close to the brand slogan ‘greatness is within’, we always have Muhammad Ali featured in our imagery and we’re developing the 1910 brand in the gyms and also in the sportswear.

You bought DW Fitness to build your portfolio, are you on the lookout for acquisitions?
We get offered a lot of health club businesses to buy and we’ll take the right opportunities if they come along – the good thing about Frasers Group is that we’re well-funded, so the money is available for the right purchases that fit the strategy when it comes to building the Everlast Gyms portfolio in the UK.

We also own some of our property, so we’re open to purchasing assets and – given we’re extending into retail spaces, this can be in shopping centres and retail parks.

Frasers Group wants to have the fittest workforce in the world. Tell us more
Employee wellbeing should be a top priority for any organisation, it fosters a healthier, more engaged workforce and promotes a positive culture, which is central to achieving long-term success.

The Frasers Fit initiative was created to enhance teambuilding and promote healthy, active lifestyles among all Frasers Group employees.

It’s been designed to tackle three pillars – physical, financial and mental wellbeing.

Frasers Fit gives employees access to free resources, useful materials and engaging activities to help them stay motivated and achieve their personal goals.

Who’s driving the Frasers Fit initiative within the business?
It’s being driven from the top by CEO, Michael Murray, who’s an advocate of promoting a healthy lifestyle.

From a fitness perspective, the programme fits well within the company structure, as we already have the depth of knowledge and facilities available to help deliver an impactful wellbeing programme to our employees.

What support is the team getting to support their journey into wellness?
We recently launched a Frasers Fit app that offers our teams free, pre-loaded workouts that can be filtered based on individual goals, fitness level and lifestyle.

Whether they’re a fitness enthusiast or just starting their journey, Frasers Fit has something for everyone.

Colleagues can also track progress and metrics, link wearables, log stats and compare with other colleagues.

Frasers Group has partnered with The Retail Trust, who provide support and resources for the financial and mental wellbeing pillars of the initiative.

Are gym staff delivering these interventions?
The benefit of having a fitness industry brand as part of the group is that our gym staff are fully invested in the benefits of Frasers Fit and support it however and whenever they can – whether that’s coaching group training sessions in one of our gyms, leading park runs, getting involved with challenges, or running workshops in our head offices.

How will you measure success?
Employee engagement and feedback is something we thrive on. We’ve already received great testimonials from colleagues on how much they love using the Frasers Fit app.

Do you always use your own gyms to deliver Frasers Fit programmes?
It’s a perfect fit, as we have 60 gyms throughout the UK where our staff can train and also where we can run events and activations.

In addition, Frasers Group also has a partnership with Barry’s, so its locations can be used by our London- and Liverpool-based colleagues, to make sure they’re getting a sweat on too. The beauty of the Frasers Fit app is that you can use it wherever you are – at home, in a hotel room, on holiday, or at one of our gyms.

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HCM People: Dan Summerson

MD, Everlast Gyms

We’re gearing up for global expansion through joint ventures with our retail partners

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 10

Where are you with the UK business?
We stripped the portfolio back slightly when we started out two years ago, disposing of sites that weren’t investable or where there were landlord issues.

We wanted to optimise the estate, make sure we believed in all the sites we kept and then elevate those by totally overhauling them before setting out on a path to growth.

We’re at that stage now and over the next three to five years we’re aiming to grow from 60 to 100 gyms in the UK.

And you’re going global?
We’re also gearing up for global expansion and although we have the portfolio of clubs in the UK, we don’t want to build our own clubs overseas, so we’re looking for joint venture (JV) partners who want to make Everlast part of their journey.

They’ll ultimately own the properties and run them under a licence or franchise agreements.

Why this approach?
Because we’re part of retail giant Frasers Group, we have the opportunity to extend existing retail partnerships to develop the Everlast Gyms brand globally.

We’re looking for the right partners who are winners in their markets to get global reach and scale quickly.

We've already got huge JV partners across the globe – in places such as Indonesia and Malaysia, for example – and Frasers Group is also expanding in other world regions, so we've got plenty of partners with whom to collaborate.

What interest are you expecting?
Frasers Group is having meetings with JV partners and they’re just as interested in taking an Everlast Gym as they are our other brands, such as Sports Direct, because they believe in the future of the fitness industry. In some cases, they want to talk more about the gyms than the retail.

We’re responding to that demand and will be offering them the Everlast brand alongside our retail concepts.

So your new flagship gym in Gateshead has been planned as part of this strategy?
The aim has been to create a flagship site, while also using it to demonstrate all the different workout modalities and concepts we’ve developed over the last two years.

As we start our global expansion, we want to have a central point where potential JV partners can browse, see which concepts would work for them and decide what to put in their own Everlast Gyms.

They may not have the 37,000sq ft we have, but we can show them how the different elements would scale to fit their space and best suit their target audience.

It's great to have all the different Everlast concepts in one place – it’s like a shopping centre for gyms.

Every gym we’ve done so far has taken us on a journey and this concept is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

What led you to create such a wide range of workout options?
What’s been really exciting about the journey so far is that in the UK, since we launched the brand, we’ve been systematically ‘elevating’ our clubs by upgrading them.

We brought the portfolio together via a number of acquisitions, so it’s been an important part of the strategy to bring them all into the same look and feel.

As a result of this legacy, however, many of the Everlast sites in the UK differed in terms of size and layout, meaning we’ve had to develop concepts that are super scalable, so we can drop them in, depending on the space that’s available. This has given us a highly flexible portfolio of IPs and workout options.

What will the JV business arrangement be?
We’re flexible about the contractual arrangements, so it will depend on how they want to do it. We’re fortunate we can be flexible.

How many JV clubs are you aiming for
I’d hate to put a number on it, as the potential is enormous. We expect JV partners to take multiple sites.

What size will they be?
We’ve created a number of different models in our JV pack. These range from 12,000sq ft to 40,000sq ft+ so very different models, different sets of costs and different EBITDA numbers they can return.

We want to create options for our partners.

Tell us about the Gateshead development
The site is a former Debenhams department store in the Metrocentre and Frasers Group has taken the whole 137,000sq ft on three floors, putting the 37,000sq ft gym on the top floor, a 50,000sq ft Sports Direct downstairs and the Flannels clothes brand on the ground floor.

We’re aiming to roll out this same model in other former large retail sites in the next few years – we’re negotiating on other Debenhams, for example – so we’re going in at scale.

What’s inside the Gateshead site?
It’s 40,000 sq ft and has a lot of open plan. It’s got all the boutique elements, as well as all the Big Box elements. I don’t think there’s anything that looks like it or could compete with it in the UK. It’s something completely different.

We’ve set the whole club up so all the spaces are usable throughout the day, rather than there being areas that are used for two or three hours a day and then just collect dust for the rest of the time – as you get in many health clubs.

There are also a lot of areas that have three or more concepts in one to create more engagement.

Give us a rundown on the group exercise options
We’ve got a strong range of group classes that take place throughout the day.

There’s a HIIT offering called Hustle, which has four specific zones and is our take on a traditional HIIT class, but in a cooler, quirky environment and powered by heart rate training.

It’s got everything from SkiErgs to assault bikes, functional training and body-weight training.

There are no treadmills, as Hustle has been designed to be super low-impact and accessible to everybody.

It’s one of those zones that can be use throughout the day, so you'll see PTs in there delivering sessions, for example and it’s ideal for people who are a little intimidated by the main gym floor. We’ve got dumbbells in there and benches and plyo boxes. Rather than being a shut off area, it’s a cage, so it feels like the gym floor.

The Everlast bike workout is called Cranked and takes place in a pumping, immersive studio, with special lighting and music, while Breathe is the holistic mind-body concept and involves yoga/Pilates, stretching and mobility work. It’s been designed to get people feeling better and offer them a bit of escapism through things such as guided breathwork.

Haymaker is a boxing concept, as you can tell by the name, and has been designed so 50 per cent of the time it’s a combination of kettlebell work, resistance training and sports conditioning and then the other half is building on boxing combinations.

We’re not appealing specifically to people who are super into boxing, but are focusing on improving technique, building confidence and skill.

Who’s delivering the classes?
At the moment it’s all about live workouts and all our classes are coach-led.

We may go down the virtual route at some point as an additional service, at certain times of day, but the main focus now is very much about delivering through our people.

The studios are also being used by people outside of class time – you see members in there all the time working out, so our plan to make the whole club useable all day is really working.

What happens on the gym floor?
We’ve created seven different styles of workouts and strength is a big part of the gym floor – it’s very popular today with both women and men.

Weights used to be a men’s zone, but it’s equal now. Women love lifting and training with weights, so we’ve shrunk our cardio areas and expanded resistance. It’s been part of our strategy across all our sites to expand into that area.

We’ve also created specialised gym floor zones. The Apex is a functional space with rigs that’s been designed to enable people to train for sports racing, preparing them compete in events such as Hyrox and Athx.

Then we have the 1910 concept [the year the brand was founded in the Bronx, New York], which is a pure boxing brand with a full boxing ring, along with boxing-style workouts. It fits with our brand and has a heritage feel to it.

We also have an area called Backbone, which is all about lifting and strength – at the Gateshead site we’ve got ten platforms.

It’s all about platform eduction – teaching people who want to use platforms and rigs the right technique in smaller groups.

You get a workout, but there’s a lot of education and smaller group training is very popular in America which helps with our global expansion plans.

There’s also a huge gym floor with plate-loaded equipment, free weights and an extensive cardio area.

Are these global concepts?
Yes, we looked globally for concepts we knew would work well in our target markets, while also linking with our heritage. It’s important when growing JV partnerships to ensure there are concepts to suit every market.

Do you have a recovery zone?
We’ve created spaces for recovery called Activate. This is the first location where we’re going to be using Hyperice products, such as Normatec recovery boots, and massage guns, along with chill tubs and saunas for contrast bathing.

We’ve had a recovery zone in all of our elevated sites so far, but because we’ve got the luxury of more space and believe recovery is a strong trend, we’ve enhanced it in Gateshead, adding rentable physio rooms, so physios can deliver private treatments, as well as using the Activate area with their clients.

It’s an unbelievable set-up – we believe it’s the biggest hybrid gym in the UK.

How much of the Gateshead gym will be open to non-members?
Normally Sports Direct and Everylast Gyms have separate entrances, but this is the first club connected directly to the Sports Direct by escalators, which means we can cross-market them.

The gym’s smoothie bar and cafe – the Flavore Bar – will be accessible for non-members and people coming in from the car park and heading down to the Sports Direct, so we can generate additional revenue from the retailing and F&B and subtly introduce them to the gym environment.

We’re serving barista coffee because the quality of coffee on retail parks is high and as that’s the kind of environment we’re increasingly going to be trading in, we need to know if we put coffee in it will be excellent.

We’ve also added a laptop zone, so people can stay and work at the gym if they choose to.

We think we’re one of the first in the world to combine retail, co-working and gym in this way.

Tell us about the transport links
Metrocentre Gateshead is very well connected, so has strong links to big catchments. It’s got rail and bus links and is right next to the AI. You can park in the multi-storey car park and walk straight into the gym without needing to go into the Metrocentre itself.

We also offer really good bike storage.

How many members are you aiming for?
We’re targeting at least 10,000 members. At some of our smaller sites, we’ve achieved that number.

How important is the original Everlast brand?
It had zero connection a few years back – there was no retail in our stores and no connection with boxing equipment – but over the last two years we’ve brought in more retail and this has also been elevated, so the sportswear that’s being produced is of a high standard.

We stay close to the brand slogan ‘greatness is within’, we always have Muhammad Ali featured in our imagery and we’re developing the 1910 brand in the gyms and also in the sportswear.

You bought DW Fitness to build your portfolio, are you on the lookout for acquisitions?
We get offered a lot of health club businesses to buy and we’ll take the right opportunities if they come along – the good thing about Frasers Group is that we’re well-funded, so the money is available for the right purchases that fit the strategy when it comes to building the Everlast Gyms portfolio in the UK.

We also own some of our property, so we’re open to purchasing assets and – given we’re extending into retail spaces, this can be in shopping centres and retail parks.

Frasers Group wants to have the fittest workforce in the world. Tell us more
Employee wellbeing should be a top priority for any organisation, it fosters a healthier, more engaged workforce and promotes a positive culture, which is central to achieving long-term success.

The Frasers Fit initiative was created to enhance teambuilding and promote healthy, active lifestyles among all Frasers Group employees.

It’s been designed to tackle three pillars – physical, financial and mental wellbeing.

Frasers Fit gives employees access to free resources, useful materials and engaging activities to help them stay motivated and achieve their personal goals.

Who’s driving the Frasers Fit initiative within the business?
It’s being driven from the top by CEO, Michael Murray, who’s an advocate of promoting a healthy lifestyle.

From a fitness perspective, the programme fits well within the company structure, as we already have the depth of knowledge and facilities available to help deliver an impactful wellbeing programme to our employees.

What support is the team getting to support their journey into wellness?
We recently launched a Frasers Fit app that offers our teams free, pre-loaded workouts that can be filtered based on individual goals, fitness level and lifestyle.

Whether they’re a fitness enthusiast or just starting their journey, Frasers Fit has something for everyone.

Colleagues can also track progress and metrics, link wearables, log stats and compare with other colleagues.

Frasers Group has partnered with The Retail Trust, who provide support and resources for the financial and mental wellbeing pillars of the initiative.

Are gym staff delivering these interventions?
The benefit of having a fitness industry brand as part of the group is that our gym staff are fully invested in the benefits of Frasers Fit and support it however and whenever they can – whether that’s coaching group training sessions in one of our gyms, leading park runs, getting involved with challenges, or running workshops in our head offices.

How will you measure success?
Employee engagement and feedback is something we thrive on. We’ve already received great testimonials from colleagues on how much they love using the Frasers Fit app.

Do you always use your own gyms to deliver Frasers Fit programmes?
It’s a perfect fit, as we have 60 gyms throughout the UK where our staff can train and also where we can run events and activations.

In addition, Frasers Group also has a partnership with Barry’s, so its locations can be used by our London- and Liverpool-based colleagues, to make sure they’re getting a sweat on too. The beauty of the Frasers Fit app is that you can use it wherever you are – at home, in a hotel room, on holiday, or at one of our gyms.

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