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Express Fitness ‘HITT’s back at COVID-19

After a devastating shock to the model of gyms across the world because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Express Fitness Limited has come back stronger by launching two new concept solutions as several established gyms close up shop due to the inability to break even in the current environment.

The health and wellness company, which operates 11 Express branded gyms across the island, had set its sights on expanding to a footprint of 20 fitness locations across the Caribbean by the end of 2020. However, the abrupt disruption to the company’s plans forced it to scrap those plans and focus on ensuring it could efficiently navigate what was an unknown time.

“The lockdowns caused by the pandemic effectively rendered all gyms closed for an extended period. Accordingly, Express Fitness had to find ways to quickly manage cost. We were forced to enact temporary furloughs and salary reductions, negotiate rents and manage all other forms of expenditure as our revenue fell to zero. That said, it was a great learning experience for us in managing cost for the future and being flexible in our growth strategy. It also pushed us to diversify our offering through technology solutions, digital distribution channels and new formats of fitness,” said executive chairman of Norbrook Equity Partners, Khary Robinson, on the impact of COVID-19 to Express’ operations. Norbrook is the parent company of Express Fitness and several other widely known subsidiaries such as Mailpac, Hertz, Pure National Ice and Epay.

Due to the need to effectively social distance and maintain health guidelines, Express has had to tape off some machines and limit the capacity of the gym’s operations. However, the company has been able to manage these restrictions due to the continued patronage of some members along with influx of new members coming from the decline of gyms such as Spartan Health and Giscombe Gym which were forced to close as the pandemic adversely affected their income stream.

Despite this reality for the industry, Robinson instead saw the pandemic as a way to diversify their offerings and position itself for the post-pandemic world where health will be a higher need for people.

“Express has always been positioned as the leading provider of fitness solutions for the broader consumer market. Accordingly, . We have also seen the growth of a few ‘bodybuilding’ gyms as most of the consolidation is happening in that sector of the market given the intrinsic operating cost of those gym formats, it is much harder to stay afloat in these times and Spartan and Giscombe were unfortunate casualties.

“For us, we grew in 2020 with the opening of two new gyms. One being our new self-training gym platform called 365 Fitness. This gym is 7,000 square feet and is located in Fairview, Montego Bay. Its opening was the most successful in the company’s history as it catered to a new and broader market segment of price conscious health consumers.

“We also opened The HIIT Factory at Constant Spring Golf Club which is the first of its kind in the region. The HIIT (high-intensity interval training) Factory was developed to meet the growing demand for new and efficient workout solutions in Jamaica. HIIT workouts combine short bursts of intense exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. At the HIIT Factory, we make the intervals exciting with several intense and unique outdoor stations that offer our clients a new and fun way to work out. The group setting also brings a level of competitiveness and collaborations that encourages elicits clients to maintain consistency and effort. As soon as the pandemic allows for the free flow of gym goers again, Express will be aggressively expanding its various solutions across the region,” Robinson shared with the Jamaica Observer‘s Sunday Finance.

This is all in preparation for an impending initial public offering of Express Fitness on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. Robinson confirmed that despite the challenges in the business and the market, listing the company is still on the agenda but has been delayed due to the timing not being appropriate.

He further posited that Express aims to list on the junior market to secure cost-efficient growth capital to unlock all the elements of their strategic plan.

Additionally, as the world becomes more digitally inclined, Express is looking to launch an app within the next two months which will complement its existing and new clubs across the region.

In addition to this innovative step, Robinson described how the company will generally redefine the way clients relate to the fitness company and its aim to redefine fitness in the Caribbean.

“While we continue to manage cost, Express believes that the long-term value proposition it offers in the region is unchanged. The reality is that health and wellness is of even greater importance today. Accordingly, we aim to continue finding ways to provide access to wellness solutions for all Caribbean consumers. That will range from gyms and personal training to nutrition and app-based classes.

“Our value proposition in the long term is to best support our growing customer base and enable their health and wellness goals. Express Fitness will emerge as a group of fitness brands that serve a wide array of fitness taste, geographies, and income demographics. More specifically, we aim to have solutions that target all segments of the market including formats for high, middle and low-income households.

“By creating this unique ecosystem at Express Fitness, we not only create value for our clients, but enhance our value as we can monetise the community we serve with auxiliary products and services that are complimentary to their health and wellness journey. Accordingly, our primary focus right now is to increase the size and scope of the Express Fitness family offering solutions that allow us to the broadest and most varied base of health consumers. We have started this journey with the launch of our two latest brands – 365 Fitness and HIIT Factory.

“As the pandemic made workouts more attractive, the launch of HIIT was expedited and it has been extremely successful. We aim to open at least three additional locations by the end of 2021. While we remain prudent about expanding the company, we are putting strategic initiatives in place to ensure we are poised for significant growth as soon as movement and interaction is no longer hindered by the COVID-19 virus,” Robinson ended.