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While the pandemic has been disruptive, we see this period also as an opportunity
Morten Hellevang Norwegian gym chain EVO Fitness has created a strong set of operating policies for dealing with the business challenges of the pandemic, as its CEO explains to Tom Walker
e were given just two hours to close down our businesses,” says Morten Hellevang, describing the day in 2020, when the Norwegian government placed the country in COVID-19 lockdown. “A very long three months later, the fitness sector was the last industry to reopen,” he says, suggesting the lockdown provided gym operators with plenty of time to plan their return to business. What Hellevang and his team did during lockdown has seen the company weather the COVID-19 storm well across all its trading markets – Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. “When we were forced to close, we quickly concluded that – as a nationwide chain – we wouldn’t get a lot of sympathy from our members,” says Hellevang. “Therefore, we decided that during the period of closure we wouldn’t charge customers anything – that we would carry the loss entirely.
February 2021 ©Cybertrek 2021
COVID-19 LOSSES “It was a decision that ended up costing us NOK40m (US$4.3m, €3.8m, £3.4m) in revenue during the three months we were closed – a significant loss for us. “However, it was a strategic decision. We identified that the most important thing for us was to have as many members as possible when we were allowed to reopen. “Instead of trying to keep a little money coming in from members – or charging and converting them to some form of digital memberships – we decided to take the loss and keep members happy.” The decision to not charge for memberships was accompanied by a drive to keep the membership – and the wider Norwegian public – engaged with the brand throughout lockdown. “We furloughed most of our staff, but kept on some
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