A simple solution to one of the gym sector’s biggest challenges

John Halls is the Managing Director of Physical Company Ltd, one of the UK’s fastest growing gym equipment company with 55% growth since John joined in 2007.

We met with John to learn how he’d achieved this growth and, in particular, how he has helped gyms find a solution to one of the industry’s biggest challenges.


What are you seeing as the big growth areas of kit at present?

The main area of growth is functional kit. Many gyms are starting to free up far more space for functional exercise and that’s driving a lot of sales. The challenge then is to ensure it actually gets used!

Why do you believe functional kit is so often underused?

It’s due to a lack of education. People don’t know how to use it and therefore just stick to their existing programs. You would think that PT’s would be the solution to this but in practice the PT’s only tend to engage with their clients, not with the broader member base.

So what’s the solution?

At first I assumed it was simply a case of educating the gym floor staff. I thought that if we could package up products and education together then trainers would be better placed to share that information around the gym, so we created an online program called Physical Excel. However, in practice education alone wasn’t enough as it still depended on staff implementing it for themselves on the gym floor. We needed to take the hassle out it so we devised a series of innovative gym floor sessions called Apex.

It began with a large project we did for LA Fitness. They had asked us to roll out functional kit across 46 sites and asked what we could do to ensure the kit was used and didn’t turn into a huge white elephant. Our solution was to design a series of gym floor group training sessions that involved all the latest kit. It was a huge success. Not only were participation rates extremely high but other members would see these awesome classes taking place and want to find out how to use the kit themselves. Within just a few months it had become their most popular ever gym floor class!

Since that time the Apex series has evolved into something we can offer to any of our clients. We have a team of trainers that we send around the world to learn about the latest trends in group fitness and functional training, and this collective insight then shapes the next generation of Apex for our customers.


How would you sum up the benefits of these gym floor classes?

The benefits of running gym floor classes are absolutely huge:
– They increase usage of your functional kit, which in turn improves member satisfaction
– They provide an opportunity for the trainers to sell their services into new clients
– They develop a far greater sense of community which in turn impacts retention

The last point is probably the most important; it’s widely recognised that member engagement and community are huge factors in determining retention. The general assumption has always been that this has to come through personal training but less than 10% of members can typically afford a personal trainer and these sessions do very little to build a sense of community. On the other hand, classes are far more cost effective and our research shows that 90% of people would prefer to work out as a group anyway.

Ever since the explosion of the budget gym sector, the big questions have been how do you develop a sense of community and ensure your functional kit gets used. I believe that gym floor classes may just be the solution the industry’s been waiting for!


Posted in Gyms & Clubs, Interviews, The Fitness Network.