David Lloyd Challenges Boutique Fitness Studios With New Group Class Concept

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LONDON, United Kingdom — David Lloyd Leisure has thrown down the gauntlet to the UK’s boutique studios by investing £15 million to roll out a new Blaze group exercise class across 49 of its 114 health clubs.

The high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class combines cardiovascular training with strength and combat exercises in a format not dissimilar to those from 1Rebel and Barry’s Bootcamp.

The move reflects that of rival chains DW Fitness First and Virgin Active, who have had to innovate, adapt or cut down their offerings with the boom of boutique studios and success of budget gym chains, such as PureGym (180+ gyms, as of 2017) and The Gym Group (100+ locations).

In August, PureGym’s Commercial and Strategic Development Director Francine Davis announced plans to roll out a new “small box” gym concept to create “a brand new proposition with new floor layouts and flexible space”.

Low-cost gyms might be pinching the margins of larger chains, but boutique fitness studios continue to thrive and capitalise on changing exercise habits as people move off the gym floor and into the studio.

According to a recent Active Lives Survey by Sport England, the number of people taking part in interval training in the UK increased by more than a quarter over the past year. In the most significant change across all activity and sport, participants undertaking exercise such as circuit training or HIIT at least twice a week increased by 518,000, rising from 1.9 million to 2.4 million.

The rise has been at the expense of mainstream activities such as swimming and cycling, which have both decreased in popularity, while participation in adventure sports, such as hill walking, rock climbing and abseiling has increased.

The studio experience has been overwhelmingly favoured by women, with results from ukactive’s recent Global Boutique Trends Report showing 83% of participants at London’s boutique gyms are female.

Steven Ward, CEO of ukactive, said: “It’s clear to see why so many operators are investing in new HIIT and group classes in an attempt to satisfy growing demand from the consumer.

“The ever-expanding range of HIIT and group classes available [to the public in the UK]shows innovation is alive and well in our sector.”

David Lloyd has introduced the Blaze class to 11 of its clubs across the UK and Europe over the past year, with plans to up that number to 63 of its 114 clubs by spring 2019.

Glenn Earlam, CEO David Lloyd Leisure, explained: “We know that group exercise is booming across the UK as a whole, and our members are telling us that they are looking for new and fresh ways to keep fit with others.”

The British sports, health and leisure club, founded in 1982 with a heavy emphasis on racquet sports, was bought by British private equity firm TDR Capital for £750 million in 2013. In the past three years, TDR invested £120 million to refurbish and develop its existing clubs, while increasing its gyms in the UK, Belgium, Spain, France and Germany.

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