Fitness First to expand footprint in PHL

by VG Cabuag, BusinessMirror

Posted at May 31 2014 09:12 AM | Updated as of May 31 2014 05:12 PM

FITNESS First said it will expand the number of clubs in the Philippines and across the region for the next five years as the company rebrands itself worldwide as the brand stagnated over the last few years due to its mounting debt.

Fitness First Asia Chief Executive Officer Simon Flint said that the privately owned company founded in the United Kingdom will be putting up one to two gym clubs in the country per year over the next five years and will refurbish its existing clubs over the next 18 months as part of the global rebrand.

All of the new clubs will be in Metro Manila and will be situated in malls, in corporate offices or even a stand-alone gym where there’s enough foot traffic, Flint said. Each club cost about $600,000 to $2 million depending on the location and type of club, he explained.

“After 13 years in the Philippines, we are rebranding a symbolic change in our logo but, more importantly, a major change across many, many areas. And we have researched deeply [to] go further in life through fitness and we believed that we cracked the code to motivation.”

Fitness First has about 16 branches in the country, mostly in Metro Manila, but its growth in expanding its clubs over the past years has stagnated, that resulted the company to close some of the clubs. It also saw the resurgence of the other club brands such as Gold’s Gym. Fitness First’s 16th club is in SM Aura in Taguig, and would be the company’s flagship brand as it now carries its new logo using the prominent “F”. Flint said the company spent P90 million for the said gym and will spend about P65 million more to upgrade other clubs.

Flint said Fitness First decided to rebrand after its main markets in the UK and Australia have been affected as the company racked up huge debts that it neglected some of its core operations.

In Australia, for instance, the club was called “finance first” after it placed its financials first before its members.

The company is now majority owned by US-based Oaktree Capital Partners.

“We are debt free and we have a clean balance sheet and we are very healthy to invest in our estate. We have $42 million to invest in our current estate to invest in Asia and $100 more to expand our footprint by 60 percent,” Flint said.

“In our global rebranding initiative, we are investing in the Philippines as it is one of our key markets with high potential for growth,” he said, adding that the new investments, apart from investing in new clubs and refurbishing existing clubs, will be used to train staff and develop programs, as well as products to address the needs of people in the Philippines.

In Photo: Simon Flint, chief executive officer of Fitness First Asia, with Mark Ellis, Fitness First Philippines country manager, explains the company’s new tack that he says is a transformation of a fitness philosophy, member experience and programs as well new identity, at a shopping center in Taguig City on Thursday. The announcement of Fitness First to further expand and develop their business at $140 million in the Asian region in the next five years shows our serious focus toward the fitness industry, Flint said. In the Philippines Fitness First invested P90 million in its newest club alone, Fitness First Platinum Aura Club, and has earmarked P65 million for club upgrades for the year, Ellis said. (Stephanie Tumampos)