Physical Company recently turned 30. Have you celebrated?
We have made quite a lot of noise about it! We have launched a new brochure and freshened up the brand, bringing the typeface up to date, and losing the icon from our products. Now all our staff are proud to wear our branded clothes and love the brand from within. We’ve also dropped the word Company from our product branding, so it will just have Physical. The aim was to create a strong, modern feel, which I think we have achieved.
Added to this, we have simplified the mission statement. Because this started out as a family business, it was small enough for everyone to understand the culture and mission. However as the company grew, we needed to formalise this, but our mission statement was wordy, long winded and hard to remember. Now it is very easy: we are First For Fitness Solutions.
This mission is supported by our core values, which are unparalleled customer service; high quality, good value products; teamwork and commitment. All our team understand our aims and objectives. We are not just a seller of kit, but a provider of the overall solution – from designing the workout space to delivering the equipment and programming.
It started out as a family business, do you still see Physical as a family business or have you evolved?
I think it’s a bit of both. My parents started the company in 1989 so my two brothers and I were immersed in it at an early age, and although we have all had other careers, we have gravitated back to the family business and my parents have retired.
We have also developed beyond that. Some of our larger customers don’t tend to want to be sold to by a company working out of a cottage in Buckinghamshire. Our HQ now boasts 30,000sq ft of office, warehouse and showroom space, with room for growth. We have a fit and healthy team of 24. We offer a massive range of equipment, including flooring, and products for mind/body exercise, strength and conditioning, as well as functional.
What are the big trends you're witnessing at the moment?
One of the big trends at the moment is flooring – we’re delivering many elaborate floor installations, including features such as branding, patterns and programming prompts, all of which we are embedding during the manufacturing process.
Technology is another ongoing trend and is a way in which we have added value to our products. Our Physical Company app offers a number of different programmes for the gym floor, which users can also access by hovering their phone over the embedded NFC chip. One of our newest launches is a multi-functional exercise bench with storage, the Evo Bench. The App offers a wide variety of training exercises and instruction videos which maximise the user’s experience. The App also houses APEX - a range of programmes for different exercise protocols, which are supported by four new releases each year. Club operators love APEX – Serco have just bought functional kit from us and can access the programming to back it up.
As an equipment supplier you have to stay one step ahead of the operators. How do you do this?
You have to keep moving and exploring. Each year, members of our team travel to various global destinations to meet with existing and potential new suppliers. It is important to attend all the main shows, as well as take a risk, investing in stock and technology. We are always looking to partner with world class suppliers, for example we are now the UK distributor for Merrithew™ Pilates Reformers, and the Italian brand, Reaxing, which offers products for instability training. We work closely with operators to determine what plans they have for the future, and what equipment they are likely to require.
Do you have any predictions for the industry?
I think we will continue to see the market polarise with the budgets and boutiques at opposite ends. Both ends are vibrant, but the guys in the middle are still getting squeezed. A number of these are looking at improvements they can make to their facility, equipment and services to differentiate themselves and improve experience at their facility. I think there might be hard times ahead for the industry: everyone is a bit nervous about Brexit and the Brexit hangover.
As a population, I believe more people will start to exercise, however their choice as to where they do this has further increased with some good quality home training options now available. Boosted by Peloton, I think there will be rise in home training, possibly with the introduction of augmented reality products, so people can put on glasses and see an instructor in their room.