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interview
Growing in number Staff from
across the chain – currently 97
in Portugal and two in Spain –
attend the Vivafi t conference
The company also has a 24-strong
team to support the clubs. Field reps
visit each site regularly, a telephone line
is open from 9am to 6pm Monday to
Friday for any issues, and forums exist
for clubs to share their experiences.
crossing borders a second club in Badajoz, Extremadura, money. The recession is just getting rid
This level of support helps explain the in April this year. Lying close to the of unprofessional clubs that should have
success of Vivafit, but there are other Portuguese border, the region is an closed a long time ago.”
reasons why the chain has never had to obvious choice for expansion, says He does concede, however, that with
close a club. The experience in Oeiras Pedro: “We have a huge waiting list of banks holding a tighter rein on their cash,
taught the company the importance of people wanting to open a franchise in would-be investors are fi nding it harder
location and it now approves all new Lisbon, but there are no locations left. than ever to access credit. “We know, if
sites. The clubs themselves are also Extremadura is only two hours away, so people don’t have €30,000 in cash, they
stylishly designed with fresh colours and it makes sense to expand there.” won’t get the credit they need for the
marble sinks in the bathrooms. Around Their experience in Madrid has franchise,” he adds – Vivafi t requires an
160–200sq m (1,722–2,153sq ft) in size, shown that, aside from language, there initial fee of €100,000 for the building
the facilities include the main circuit are few differences in running the and equipment, and franchisees need a
area, complete with 10 pieces of Vivafi t franchise in Spain. The company further €20,000 to see them through
Portuguese hydraulic equipment simply therefore plans to open fi ve new sites the fi rst months of trading.
called Circuit Equipment, interspersed there by the end of 2009 and have 13 up Despite this, Pedro says they are
with recovery platforms, a stretching and running in Badajoz, Mérida, Cáceres seeing no decline in the approaches
area, reception and changing facilities. and Plasencia – all in Extremadura – in made by investors and are continuing to
Unlike many express fi tness concepts, the next fi ve years. open sites at the same rate.
Vivafi t also offers group fi tness classes Another 20 sites are scheduled to Sales have been a struggle, but the
in the form of pilates and, more recently, open in Portugal by the end of this year, launch of Body Vive in January and
Body Vive, after receiving permission bringing the total number of Vivafi t the introduction of a new monthly
from Les Mills to run a 35-minute version gyms by the end of 2009 to 120. And membership fee – €49 including all
of the programme. It’s the condensed it doesn’t stop there: the Ruizes plan classes instead of €39 and charging
form of both classes – pilates is 45 to have over 400 sites and fi ve master extra for classes – has seen a large
minutes instead of 60 – as well as the franchises in Europe, South and Central proportion of members convert to the
30-minute circuit which attracts so many America and the Middle East by 2014. higher monthly rate.
women to the chain, says Constance: In addition, Vivafi t continues to work
“It’s a psychological thing. So many of our business as normal hard on retention and on delivering
members don’t feel they have time for But are these plans realistic given the an experience that keeps members
a traditional gym, but they can spare 30 current economic climate, which is coming back for more. It’s a constant
minutes or so for a workout.” spelling the end of many a business and challenge, says Constance: “People think
Around 40,000 members belong to which is unlikely to be conducive to the the fi tness business is easy. They think
Vivafi t, and such is the success of the launch of new ones? Pedro believes so: that franchising is easy. They’re not.
group to date that it’s seeking to expand “There are lots of clubs closing in Spain We’re continually trying to understand
into neighbouring Spain. It opened its at the moment, but most of them were the behaviour of our members,
fi rst site in Madrid in 2008, followed by badly-run businesses and had always lost tackle retention issues and deliver a
professional service. It’s hard work.”
But her husband says their efforts will
most certainly continue to pay dividends
By 2014, there will over 400
in the future: “A lot of clubs won’t
survive this crisis and the market will
sites in Europe, South and Central
be a better place for it. This is a time of
opportunity for Vivafi t.”
America and the Middle East
vicky kiernander
healthclub@leisuremedia.com
32 Read Health Club Management online july 2009 © cybertrek 2009
healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital
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