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middle east market


For cultural reasons, FFME operates ladies-only clubs, such as Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi (above), as well as mixed sex and men-only facilities


so on. And we’ve just signed a deal with nutritional products provider AmCan, so members will be able to buy nutritional products and supplements in our clubs.” Botha continues: “We’ve also


partnered with organisations such as the Dubai Sports Council to run a project called Decide, where we go in and talk to doctors and other medical specialists about the benefi ts of exercise, to encourage them to prescribe it – and in fact, they’re starting to get much more vocal about the fact that people should exercise. Doctors here are more likely to refer their patients than UK GPs. “The second E is engagement, getting involved in the community and creating


our own community within the clubs. We’re encouraging our members to get involved in the decision-making process via social media, for example – in less than 12 months, we’ve gained over 21,500 Facebook fans. “For us, driving high levels of engagement is vital, as 60 to 65 per cent of new members come from referrals. That’s less to do with the immaturity of the market and more to do with the culture out here: people want to exercise with friends, and small group training and the buddy system are very popular. “And the fi nal E is enlisting – getting people in and started, hand-holding them through the process with three sessions


A LANDMARK AGREEMENT


brands, including restaurant chain Carluccios, Home Centre, Shoe Mart, hypermarket Spar, hotel brand Citymax and spa brand Spaces. The group currently reports an annual turnover of US$4.7bn and operates across 17 countries. Landmark acquired the Fitness First


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Middle East (FFME) franchise from previous owner Al Hokair in late 2010, with the FFME management team now reporting in to the CEO of Landmark’s hospitality division. It has ambitions to grow the chain across the region: the franchise agreement


he Landmark Group encompasses a number of mass market lifestyle


allows for clubs in up to 21 countries in the Middle East and Africa. And what the FFME management team brings to the table in terms of fi tness expertise, Landmark brings in terms of retail experience and regional knowledge. “Obviously the commercials have to add up, but we aim for high footfall, high visibility locations such as shopping malls – and that’s where Landmark is exceptionally powerful,” says FFME sales and marketing director Mark Botha. “There’s over 20 million square feet of retail space across the Middle East, and within that, Landmark owns over 1,300 stores across its various brands. That’s a signifi cant presence.”


50 Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital


in the fi rst 21 days. In the UK, most people join a gym from a competitor, or will at least have exercised in the past and have a decent knowledge base; here they’re coming from inactivity, so it can be scary for them.”


SEVEN-STAR OFFERING Another big cultural difference, of course, revolves around gender. “It all depends on the local demographics and we do have some standalone ladies’ gyms,” says Flooks. “However, increasingly our model for new-builds is moving towards one venue with a common reception but two entirely separate gyms. On one side you’ll have the ladies gym, on the other side either a mixed gym or men-only.” “Landmark’s policy is to think clearly in terms of club layouts, maximising usable space. Our optimum footprint going forward would be about 1,400–1,675sq m (15,000–18,00sq ft), catering for around 2,000 members,” adds Botha. Aside from the gender-based elements, does FFME have separate sub-brands – as with Blue, Platinum and Black Label in the UK – to denote the level of the offering? “We have Platinum clubs and Plus clubs, which are our equivalent of Blue – except that where in the UK Fitness First is probably a three-star offering, in the Middle East we’re a six- or seven-star operator across the board,” says Flooks. “We also recently acquired four clubs that had been operating under the Hayya brand, and which we now call our Community Clubs. These are effectively Platinum Plus. It was a strategic move for us and isn’t an area we’ll focus on going forward – they’re located in upmarket


september 2012 © cybertrek 2012


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