The fitness industry’s pivot to digital has defined the sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For Spanish chain GO fit, it could also mean achieving the company’s mission to get an entire nation physically active.
Speaking exclusively to HCM, Ward said GO fit was quick to react to the sudden changes in the marketplace, forced on by the lockdown – and is now reaping the benefits.
“We went into this crisis as a leading facility operator; our vision is to end it as one of the best digital wellbeing providers, as well,” he says.
“Three days after lockdown, we already had our own studio creating video content on-demand, which soon turned into live streaming, constant contact and engagement with customers.
“The digital offer has already brought great energy to the brand and put us in the window for everyone. There will be no going back. This will just be the norm, something we do – and we’ll be doing even more of it, at an even higher quality.
“It’s also a new vehicle to help us move towards our company mission: to get to a proposition that could serve 100 per cent of the population.
“To illustrate that point, just as an example, we have one club in Madrid with 27,500 customers and 20,000 people on a waiting list that takes two years.
“We can’t even serve 100 per cent of the people in the catchment of the club who already want to use our service. Digital is, therefore, a critical part of expanding our capabilities to fulfil our mission as an organisation.
“And the crisis has delivered some fantastic new opportunities in this respect.
“We’re now working with Madrid, Seville and Malaga City Councils, as well as many others, all of whom have been integrating our digital response into the support they’ve been offering the residents of their cities during the crisis.
“These new digital partnerships complement our existing relationships with them as a facility operator.”
In a wide-ranging interview in the latest issue of HCM , Ward also said that, while the pandemic has had a highly disruptive effect, the way GO fit has responded has resulted in the company being in good health.
“We’re by no means complacent,” he says. “I believe there’s a long way to go in this crisis, a lot of twists and turns to come – it’s going to be tough.
“But I feel we’ve had a ‘good crisis’ so far, in terms of how we’ve reacted.
“As yet, there isn’t anything we’ve put on hold or frozen. If anything, some of the big projects we were doing – team development, strategy development, technology systems migration – have accelerated during lockdown because we had the space to do them.
“And we’re a long-term minded organisation: we enter into very long-term partnerships with the landlords, local authorities, community groups and so on that we work with. If this is a 12-, 18- or 24-month situation, we’re alright with that.
“Our company was born in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis; our team knows what it’s like to operate in a crisis.
“Our goal is to ride this turbulence and be in the same position on 1 June 2021 as we were on 1 March 2020.”
• To read the full interview, in which Ward also reveals GO fit’s future plans beyond the lockdown, click here for Issue 5 of HCM.