HCM Issue 2 2022

Page 34

photo: fitness first

I NTERV I E W

Lee Matthews New products, new motivations and a new vision. The MD of Fitness First UK speaks to Kate Cracknell about reinventing the business as a standalone enterprise

You’ve been at Fitness First since 2006, so have been on quite a journey…

I feel incredibly fortunate. Honestly, I feel like I’ve worked in lots of different businesses, albeit under the same name, and it’s been brilliant. I joined as general manager, then moved to be regional manager, in a club company that at the time was the largest in the world. The point came when the company began to shrink in size and we went through a CVA in the UK, but the strategic decisions that had to be made – the new ownership, the major global rebrand – I’d never been part of anything like that before and it was an interesting experience. After the merger with DW Sports in 2016, I was one of two directors who were asked to stay 34

Issue 2 2022 ©Cybertrek 2022

on at the combined DW Fitness First Group and this brought with it my first real experience of retail. We had 121 gyms, 90 retail stores and an e-commerce business across three different brands: DW Sports, DW Fitness and Fitness First. I did actually leave the business in 2018 – joining what was then WeightWatchers as it transitioned to become WW – a digital wellness business. But then Scott Best approached me with a new role at DW Fitness First and I re-joined the company in November 2019. Three or four months later [DW Sports Fitness went into administration, with the assets being acquired by Mike Ashley’s Everlasting chain, while Fitness First continued to trade as a standalone business]. The lockdown had hit the company hard and the retail side of DW Sports Fitness had been hit