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INTERVIEW


Technology enables Anytime clubs to open 24/7


to have 50 sites by the end of 2012; the total by January 2013 was in fact 10 clubs. So what went wrong?


“There have been a variety of challenges,” says Runyon. “First and foremost, real estate is not as prevalent in the UK as it is in other countries, particularly here in the US where there’s a strip centre on almost every corner. Construction costs are also higher in the UK. In some countries, a landlord will actually pay for your build, whereas in the UK our franchisees have to come up with the money in order to do the construction themselves. There are still some issues with lending for a new business too.


“All that adds up to mean that people are a bit more conservative about entrepreneurial decisions in the UK than in other markets – there are headwinds that make things more diffi cult for them. “I think those challenges are surmountable, but we’re going to need to work closely with our UK partners as well as some of the UK banks. We’ll have to be a bit more creative, putting loss pools in place – shared lending pools that we participate in along with the banks, so they’re more confi dent about lending to our franchisees. “Every country is different and we’re not that disappointed – it’s not uncommon to put extra resources in place. And once the clubs open in the UK, they perform very well. So we’re


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Runyon says clients still need the ‘compassion, coaching and education’ of clubs


still confi dent in the market – it’s just a matter of franchisee growth, but we will get there. It usually takes two or three years for most countries to get the momentum going.


“Australia has been the exception to that rule, and it’s exceeded all expectations. We have the right partnership group there and the climate is very ripe: it’s a health-minded country with more available space, lending, and landlords who are willing to put in money for construction.”


India, on the other hand, has proved tricky for Anytime to date, with an aborted attempt to enter the market a few years ago. “We just chose the wrong partner,” explains Runyon. “The individual we partner with in each market is the most important decision we make, and unfortunately we chose someone who


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


wanted to make Anytime Fitness different in India. We realise the model might need to be slightly modifi ed for some countries – in Qatar for example, we have a male- only club with more staff, valet parking and so on. It’s a larger, more upscale Anytime Fitness experience. But our original Indian partner wanted to go in an entirely different direction, and we just couldn’t fi nd a way to align our visions. “It was unfortunate, but we don’t think it caused any major harm to the brand in India, so we’re going to rebuild it and take our time. We have a new group in India now, which opened its fi rst club in New Delhi in February.


“There are also a few other European countries we’re looking at, subject to the right partner coming on board, but I’d be reluctant to say which purely for competitive reasons. It takes eight to


March 2013 © Cybertrek 2013


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