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Sportsworld is a full service independent operation built in a former factory, with a strong focus on design

the pool. Catering for all the family, and with around 6,300 members, single peak-time membership costs 69 (£59) a month. It’s a buzzy, colourful, inviting club, busy even mid-week, and I’d certainly have enjoyed using the extensive, well-designed facilities – but of all the sites I visited, it was perhaps the most predictable in its offering. Could this become an issue going

forward? Middelkamp explains: “As the Dutch market becomes more mature, we’re starting to see more segmentation. Some of this is at the top end of the market, but most of the clear, differentiated positioning is taking place at the lower end of the market. “I’d say the Dutch market is second

only to Germany when it comes to the budget clubs. Meanwhile, the mid- market is struggling, cutting prices and cutting elements from its offering. “To me, this is one of the key trends in

the market: the move from all-inclusive offerings to a profi t centre model, with a low basic membership fee and members paying for each of the elements they use; personal training is growing as a result of this trend, and I think will continue to be a signifi cant growth area.”

october 2010 © cybertrek 2010 market structure

Middelkamp continues: “The other key trend in the market is, I believe, consolidation, including a number of full-service chains that have acquired budget operations recently to get a toe-hold in this segment of the market. Sportcity, for example, has acquired Fit4Free, while HealthCity announced in June that it had bought BasicFit, further consolidating its position as market leader [see information box, p66]. For now, though, the top five operators account for only around 200 clubs of 2,000.” In this environment, the independents

play a key role. I visited a number of these on my trip, but two really stood out: M-Point and Azzurro, the former for its incredible focus on personal touch and the latter, as noted, for its stylish design and high level of fi nish. Owned by the very hands-on, hyper-

enthusiastic and inexhaustible Martin van Assendelft, M-Point is located in an old farmhouse by the side of a lake and set in tranquil gardens. A clear demonstration of what passion and leading by example can do for a club, it’s also a hotbed of ‘out of the box’ thinking, with improving the customer

experience at the heart of everything. M-Point’s retention levels are incredibly high and members spend a good deal of time at the club, participating in events – whether that’s card games or high tea, treasure hunts for the kids or sports tournaments – or just relaxing in the homely communal areas, all of which leads to good levels of secondary spend. The fi tness facilities themselves

are good without being remarkable, although van Assendelft creates highly bespoke programmes to ensure his members get results. But what sells it as a place I’d love to be a member of is the sense of fun, of belonging, of there always being something new to try. “As a small country, we speak

many languages and have a strong international focus, quickly adopting trends and developing these for our market,” concludes Middelkamp. Nevertheless, although similar to the UK at face value, the Netherlands also has its own very interesting best practice trends and offerings from which we could certainly learn. kate cracknell

Read Health Club Management online at 67

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