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Duncan Jefford

Our vision is for all our centres to provide the widest range of wellness services, under one roof

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 1
Jefford says the company is spending £7.5m on upgrades in the next 12 months / Everyone Active
Jefford says the company is spending £7.5m on upgrades in the next 12 months/ Everyone Active

You’ve had a shakeup of your gyms. What was the impetus behind this?
We’ve seen a fundamental change in the way people want to exercise and in response we’ve developed our fitness product to deliver an omnichannel experience for our customers.

These factors, combined with research into our customer data from the past 10 years, have led to the launch of our refreshed fitness offering.

Over the next 18 months we’ll be making changes within our gyms, studio spaces and wider facilities to deliver an enhanced experience for our customers.

How did you set the new direction for the investment?
With over 200 sport, leisure, gym and studio facilities nationwide and thousands of fitness users each day, we have the opportunity to analyse and optimise customer data.

When approaching this project, we first gathered and analysed 10 years of Gymetrix data, enabling us to understand customer demand and predict trends for years ahead.

As a result, we’ve fundamentally changed the layout of our fitness spaces, with an increased focus on strength training, free weights and functional spaces for mind, body and recovery. In addition, we’ve also slightly scaled down the cardio machines due to a year-on-year decrease in demand.

How much is being invested in the new builds and refurbishments?
Across the sites we’re refurbishing and opening as new, we’ll be investing £7.5m over the next 12 months.

What else has changed?
Our service is about bringing together equipment and environment to create a holistic solution and a real experience for customers.

Our changes in equipment have been accompanied by upgrades to the buildings and we’ve worked with GT3 Architects to refresh the interior design of our fitness spaces.

Depending on location, we’re looking to increase the size of our mind and body zones by between 10 and 15 per cent – with a bespoke design for functional fitness – to increase the size of the universal zones by between 35 and 40 per cent and the dynamic areas by around 50 per cent, with finishes inspired by Everyone Active’s brand colours.

These developments will be implemented during both refurbishments and in new centres in 21 fitness facilities across the UK over the coming six months.

You’ve also been launching your own boutique studios and taking on franchises. Tell us more
Our offering is more than just a workout and our vision is for all our centres to be at the heart of the community, providing the widest range of wellness services under one roof.

We’re proud to have developed several boutique sites across the Everyone Active brand. These offer bespoke exercise classes and spa facilities.

Boutiques include our Fortis concept, a boutique HIIT class in state-of-the-art studios that combines machines from Speedflex and tech from Myzone, to create a premium experience.

The Fortis concept – with its stapline of ‘HIIT without the hurt’ has gone from strength-to-strength as a club in club concept, with an eighth site opening in January at the Harpenden Leisure Centre.

We also work with franchises and tie-ups from F45, Cross Fit, Fight Klub and More Yoga, as well as virtual pool workout company Hyrdrohex ( to deliver a range of boutique experiences at our sites.

Tell us about your new supplier partners
We’re working with new partners such as Peloton and Life Fitness to enhance our 360-degree wellness offering. We’re also launching a new cycling concept called EA Cycle, with two studios opening in Westminster Lodge and Harpenden Leisure Centre this month (January 2023). Our aim is to launch EA Cycle classes nationwide within the next twelve months.

Other new partners will open the door to providing wellness, recovery and stretching solutions within our functional spaces. This includes working with muscle recovery specialist, Therabody and medically-graded body composition supplier, InBody.

How important has digital been in this transformation process?
Our investment into digital operations and new partnerships has helped us advance as a business. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been forced to adapt and we’re proud to have used the opportunity to swiftly make improvements to our digital processes.

For example, we’ve developed a holistic approach to supporting customers, both in-centre and from the comfort of their own home.

In a period when people couldn’t visit our centres, we launched our digital product, Everyone on Demand (EOD) in 2020. The digital app provides the widest range of health and wellness products from a single operator, from traditional workouts to meditation to GP referral programmes. Customers get exclusive access to training content through EOD from suppliers such as EXi, Mindshine and Les Mills.

Financially, this move to digital exercise has been a profitable addition to the Everyone Active portfolio, as we currently have an audience of around 15,000 regular users through EOD each month.

Are you changing the way you engage with your customers?
Our digital transformation has changed the way we communicate with customers and with over half a million people using our Everyone Active app we regularly use this platform and social media to engage in real-time with customers.

In 2022, we utilised customer and colleague feedback to better understand changes in customer demand and the importance of building relationships with new and existing visitors to our facilities.

We found a gap in the market for interaction at the initial stage of sign-up, focused on building valuable face-to-face interaction with customers from their first visit and helping them understand all the innovative equipment we offer.

In November 2022, our fitness teams introduced new 45-minute gym support sessions to give new or existing customers an increased understanding of the wide range of equipment available. There are now five educational sessions available to all customers, including strength equipment, cardiovascular machines, free weights, functional kit and group exercise.

How are you coping with the increased energy bills?
We’re seeing significant increases in energy prices, particularly in facilities with swimming pools.

As a business, we’re focused on keeping people active in local communities through the winter months and are working with our local authority partners to do everything we can to prevent closures or reduced opening hours.

We’re also reducing energy usage through innovation, investment and educational campaigns and continually looking to ensure we’re optimising our operations through building management systems (BMS), including cloud-based BMS at sites where that’s possible.

We’ve also made investments in LED lights, motion sensors, variable speed drives, pool covers, etc. We work with local authority partners to make investments in PV panels, solar thermal and heat pumps.

However, when working on these projects we need to have a clear understanding of the requirements and outcomes for each, making sure the projected energy and carbon savings can be achieved.

What are your sustainability goals?
Leisure centres consume large amounts of energy, making them significant carbon emitters. As a result, leisure operators and local authorities need to prioritise new strategies and operational changes to tackle emissions and keep financial outgoings under control.

To achieve our longer-term sustainability goals, we’re proud to be working alongside our local authority partners, as part of our Net Zero Strategy (

For any leisure centre to achieve net zero, every facet of the operation needs to be reviewed and we’ve made decisions to ensure we’re tackling these challenges, such as hiring a group sustainability manager – Peggy Lee – who’s playing a leading role in advising on sustainability, as well as helping implement our newly-ratified Net Zero Strategy.

This year, we’ll be working to make our central support hub operationally net zero, through changes that include moving entirely to a renewable energy tariff and the removal of natural gas as a heating fuel.

This will be followed by step two – a commitment to decarbonising all ‘material and relevant Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions’ from our corporate operations by 2030.

Among alterations we plan to make are upskilling and engaging with support hub users and Everyone Active colleagues and changing all company-owned and leased vehicles to plug-in electric.

How can the industry convince governments of its economic and social value?
We need to ensure we’re delivering the highest standard of experience from both a service and community perspective.

We must work with industry bodies to showcase the value of our sector and the benefits we provide for a wide range of people when it comes to their health and wellbeing.

It was great to read Sport England’s Future of Public Sector Leisure report ( which echoes what we’ve been working on at Everyone Active. The report champions a transition from traditional leisure service to one which is far more focused on Active Wellbeing, suggesting we must evolve leisure services to meet the needs of modern users and help the sector move forward in a sustainable way, creating true community hubs that enable wider service provision.

Imagine a leisure centre where you can access multiple health and wellness experiences and services under one roof, from medical to spa to community health care and beyond. Where centres become ‘essential’ in supporting community services in all parts of the medical system, and where we build on the social value we know leisure centres are capable of delivering.

Following the development of the Social Value Calculator by 4 Global in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, we can showcase the monetary value of participation in activity in leisure facilities. and the latest data from over 1.5 million of our customers shows a Social Value of £198m per year across our centres.

Our services have played a part in preventing thousands of people being admitted to hospital, through the reduction of health conditions, such as obesity, depression and type 2 diabetes, as well as delivering specialised support for people with dementia.

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