When and how was ADDleisure founded?
It was formed in London, in July 2004, and floated that October.
In 2000, I sold my former company, Membertrack, to Gladstone, but I left soon after and wasn’t allowed to compete in the industry for three years following that.
In 2003/4, I started work on EZ-Book (now EZ-Systems) and, around the same time, David Turner – who was in the process of leaving LA Fitness – introduced me to Paul Landau, who was working on what became Fitbug. Turner suggested we visit Allan Fisher, who had just left Holmes Place and who had a majority stake in Power Plate UK, to see if he had any ideas about taking EZ-Book and Fitbug forward.
I can vividly remember that we went to see him at five past three on a Wednesday and, by twenty-five past, had come up with a business idea. I was at the point where I didn’t want a big business again – I was quite happy with my little company, doing booking software and a bit of travelling – but couldn’t believe I was being offered the chance to start a public company on an equal footing with Allan Fisher and David Turner, two inspirational founders of the industry who I had always looked up to. I knew it was the right thing to do from every angle.
How is the company structured?
ADDleisure is the parent company. It’s split into two, with EZ-Systems on one side and ADDwellness on the other, which comprises Fitbug and Movers & Shapers. This structure came about because, in 2006, BUPA invested in the business, as Movers & Shapers and Fitbug tied in with its wellness strategy.
What is the company philosophy?
The company has a ‘can do’ attitude – we’re very forward-thinking, willing to try new things, and there is no lethargy.
What are the main features of EZ-Systems?
It’s a yield management system and the first intelligent one on the market. It works out the best use of staff and resources to maximise profits. Also, it suggests ways the database can be used. For example, if a bookings sheet is 20 per cent below budget, it will look at usage patterns and suggest who to call.
Tell us about the partnership with EZ-Pay
EZ-Pay is a billing company that collects membership fees from 50 per cent of Australian health clubs. They wanted to add value to their services for their customers, which EZ-Systems does. At the same time, it gives us access to 700 clubs in Australia.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
We have a number of exciting opportunities which I can’t talk about yet. The foundations have been laid and markets established, so this is the year we will expand. Even though it’s a recessive market, health and fitness is resilient.
What is Fitbug?
Fitbug is an online health and wellbeing coach that makes activity and nutrition very tangible for people. The Bug, Fitbug’s discreet tracking device, records the number of steps made by the wearer, as well as minutes of aerobic activity, calories burned and the distance walked or jogged. Results are downloaded and analysed online and are measured against individual targets. By accessing fitbug.com, people can work out if they are in a weight gain or weight loss situation for that day and gain feedback and motivation from Fitbug.
When and how did you develop Fitbug?
I started working on it in 2004 and it was launched in 2006. The idea came about as a result of recognising that most people need hand-holding to get them to exercise, so I started thinking about ways of motivating them and taking exercise beyond the gym.
How are you selling it?
It’s a standalone proposition that people can buy online, and is also integrated into Movers & Shapers (see later). We also provide a staff health programme for large companies, and BUPA is about to start using it as part of its corporate health programme.
PruHealth has been using Fitbug as part of its Vitality Scheme since 2006 (see HCM Feb 08, p46) and has just extended the contract until 2014. People earn credits towards discounts on their health insurance policies by keeping active.
We’re also running pilot schemes with some PCTs. Through Bradford and Airedale PCT, we’re working with 150 patients with BMIs of more than 35 and at least one chronic health condition. Six months on, they’ve all lost weight and, for many, prescription levels have dropped.
Holmes Place International will start using Fitbug in its clubs next year. It can really complement gym workouts by measuring activity outside the club. Say a member starts jogging in the park during the summer and could be in danger of lapsing – Fitbug records their activity and allows the club to maintain a connection with the member, always reminding them it is their home to come back to.
Personal trainers are another target. We’re launching Fitbug through well-known personal trainer The Bodydoctor, who will be using it with his clients and also giving us home exercise programmes for members to access on the website.
What are your other plans?
Next year we’ll be focusing on the hardware side of Fitbug. We’ll be developing it to make it track more activities and health indicators.
What is the concept of Movers & Shapers?
Movers & Shapers combines Power Plate sessions with Fitbug. We don’t charge membership or joining fees. Our clients usually come twice a week to one of our ‘stores’ for a 30-minute session with a personal instructor. We also sell Power Plates, as well as a select range of wellness products including an organic clothing range, and detox and anti-cellulite products.
How did you devise this?
We felt a lot of customers were intimidated by the traditional gym environment and wanted to provide a more familiar setting and an instructor-led experience. Clients don’t need to change or shower either, which makes it much easier to fit a session into their day.
How does it work?
We sell courses of 12 sessions, which includes a 45-minute consultation to assess goals and introduce the concept, 10 Power Plate sessions, and a review to measure progress. Clients are issued with a free Fitbug and all sessions are conducted by personal instructors. It works out at about £15 a time. People like it because they feel they get what they pay for.
What are your plans?
We have significant plans for growth. Three stores are opening this autumn in Barnes (London), Winchester (Hampshire) and Loughton (Essex), in addition to the five existing UK sites. We’re planning retail concessions in department stores and studios in corporate offices. We’d like to have a store in every major town.