How did you navigate the crisis?
We took action very quickly with our landlords, approaching them to try and work with them. We have 39 very long leases with M&G, who we refinanced with back in 2014 and we agreed a strong payment plan with them early in the first lockdown. Of our 24 other landlords, only one hasn’t given us rent waivers, payment plans or re-gearing where we have leases with less than 10 years to run. In total, we’ve mitigated over £3m of rent, which in many locations is equivalent to up to six months’ rent waived by co-operative landlords. We also had the rates-free period and we’ve taken advantage of the CLBILS (Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme) facility. Working with our core bankers,
NatWest, we now have £24m of CLBILS loans on-board, which we’re budgeting to pay back over two-and-a-half years. All directors took a 12.5 per cent pay cut and in the last lockdown were furloughed down to two days a week. These pay cuts will remain in place until loans are paid back, as will the freeze on dividend payments to Duncan Bannatyne. Operationally, over the waves of lockdown we’ve become more familiar with how to mothball an entire estate of clubs and bring them quickly back up-to-speed – both things we’d never had to do before. The vast majority of our new COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures were introduced first time around – meaning staff and members are also more used to them now – but we’re still learning all the time, finding ways to do things better. Even with things such as sanitising the studio, on each reopening we’ve found better ways to do it, slightly different techniques, different products that enable us to turn the studios around quicker.
We’ve permanently closed two clubs – Birmingham Priory and London’s Russell Square – which brings our estate to 71. Both were coming toward the end of their leases and, with small footprints and no spa, neither was our typical Bannatyne model. In total, we lost 149 jobs through the lockdowns. However, we’ve protected 2,560 jobs and we’ve been bringing people back from furlough as clubs have re-opened.
Will you review your product offering?
We introduced online fitness during the first lockdown and have had 864,449 visits to our YouTube channels, where our instructors live-streamed classes from wherever they ©Cybertrek 2021 Issue 4 2021