Interview
Brett Leahy, MD, Next Gen Australia

"We’ve created the ultimate health and lifestyle club that has everything you love in one incredible resort-inspired location"


How did Next Gen start?
Next Generation Clubs was a successful portfolio of premium clubs in the UK and this model was brought out to Australia with the first site opening in late 1999 at Memorial Drive, Adelaide.

Over the intervening 20 years, we’ve developed a string of private members clubs across Australia and New Zealand.

How do you fund your growth?
Next Gen Health and Lifestyle Clubs is owned by private equity group Kings Park Capital out of the UK. KPC has been the owner of Next Gen for the past 10 years.

What was the original vision?
To develop premium racquet clubs adjacent to or as part of iconic tennis clubs and facilities across Australia.

How has this evolved?
Over time this original vision has broadened in scope. We identified that our clubs were delivering a wide variety of leisure, fitness and sporting pursuits – far wider than the original intention of a tennis focus.

In an attempt to more accurately reflect the direction of the business in 2015 we changed our name and related branding to Next Gen Health and Lifestyle Clubs.

What shape is the business in today?
Next Gen currently has six locations. Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland. In addition to extensive fitness facilities and studios, each has an indoor and an outdoor pool, spa and sauna, children’s playrooms, crèche, members’ lounge, restaurant and bar – and tennis courts with a variety of surfaces.

Three of our clubs have function/conference centres and four have squash courts. Our clubs also have pro shops and host retail tenants such as hairdressers and physiotherapists and other allied health practitioners.

What plans do you have to develop it going forward? 
We’re looking to grow the portfolio and will continue with our search for specific club sites of suitable size and location. The owners have no specific goals for site growth. More important is the careful selection of sites that will enable the development of a flagship club such as Next Gen in locations that will ensure their success.

Who are your customers?
The average age of a Next Gen member is 44. The membership base is split equally male to female. They tend to be seeking out a more holistic and social club membership when they become members or they come to us to join our gym and evolve to become a member of our club.

As a result, the average tenure of a Next Gen member is considerably longer than in a standard fitness facility.

Tell us about the team
The senior executive comprises me as MD, Gavin Rowe as FD, Richard Furlong, executive GM, Australia, and Annette MacAndrew as marketing manager.

Other senior staff include Rob Mecham, sales manager, Melissa Moussallem, people and culture, Carlos King executive GM – New Zealand and Daniel Everard, product manager.

In addition, each club has its own GM, along with a team of relevant industry specialists.

The strengths that this team brings as a whole is the diversity and depth of experience, along with a passion for both the industry generally and for Next Gen specifically.

What makes Next Gen special and different?
All of our clubs are designed and constructed specifically for their purpose. Natural light, ventilation and a sense of space are important features and have been of particular importance to our members since the start of the pandemic.

Our clubs are set up to offer a superior value proposition – we have a HIIT studio, cycle studio, yoga studio and group fitness studio, as well as a gym, an aquatic centre, a tennis centre and finally a members’ bar, lounge and restaurant. All for one membership and all under one roof.

Tell us about the customer journey
We place strong emphasis on a quality onboarding and retention experience for members. New members are offered a 60-day ‘Next Steps Passport’ programme that introduces them to everything the club has to offer in terms of facility, programmes and service.

On the gym floor we have an initial body composition scan consultation, along with an initial personalised programming session. Both of which can be refreshed at six-weekly intervals.

We have a tenure loyalty programme that provides members with a sliding scale of discounts for in-club purchases and services and Next Gen offers a range of children- and family-focussed activities such as holiday active programmes, swim school and tennis lessons, homework club, family fitness classes, movie nights and supervised play.

Retention at Next Gen is as much about family and social engagement and activity as it is about fitness and results. We have an extensive calendar of activities for members and their family groups in all areas of the club.

Who designs your clubs?
Design is completed by our in-house team. We look to our successful design formulae from previous clubs and then combine that with the latest innovations out of Europe and the UK in particular. We look to include a variety of facilities that provide choice to members, as well as designing-in the aforementioned sense of space via natural light, ventilation and aspects.

How important is your F&B operation? 
It’s a fundamental way that we differentiate ourselves from fitness operators or community leisure centres. We have a fully licensed bar and full-service restaurant for members. Our function centres host weddings, milestone birthdays for members, Christmas functions, trade shows, corporate training and conferences.

Might you expand internationally?
We’re already in New Zealand and will look to add to the portfolio over there if the right site presents itself.

How have you coped during the pandemic?
COVID-19 has thrown plenty of new challenges at our business and our industry. We’ve learned that we’re a resilient and adaptable bunch.

With the support of our owners, members and staff we got through the 2020 lockdowns and rebounded very strongly throughout the start of 2021.

We’ve continued both member and staff engagement online and have developed a library of workout resources for members to access at home.

Being the type of club we are, we’ve also included colouring competitions, family trivia nights and chef recipes for members to utilise.

What are your views on the state of the industry in Australia and NZ? 
I think the importance of wellness – both physical and mental – will continue to increase. Clubs such as ours will play an important role in offering the broadest range of services in this space.

The fitness offering will continue to fragment with specialist operators emerging but there will still be a place for a premium lifestyle alternative such as ours.

Tell us about your newest club
Next Gen Doncaster is a flagship club for us and is delivering the premium facilities and service we’re renowned for. We’ve created the ultimate health and lifestyle club that has everything you love in one incredible resort-inspired location.

What does it offer?
Set on over 11,000sq m, the club boasts the latest innovations in fitness, including dedicated functional training zones, cutting-edge Technogym equipment, Outrace high intensity training facilities and a full schedule of studio classes.

There’s also a reformer Pilates studio, yoga, Les Mills speciality classes and a cinematic cycle studio.

In addition, the ultimate relaxation experience is waiting in the Premium Spa, which features a sauna, steamroom, vitality spa pool, an ice bath and a monsoon shower with an adjacent outdoor relaxation garden. Indoor and outdoor sun lounges and cabanas complete the experience.

We offer four competition-grade tennis courts for member bookings, professional tennis coaching, social and competition tennis. Members can also enjoy extensive aquatic facilities, with indoor and seasonal outdoor heated pools offering lap swimming, aqua fitness classes and learn-to-swim programmes.

Next Gen Doncaster also features a members’ lounge with a licensed bar, café and restaurant, and an extensive array of family-friendly facilities and programmes, including a crèche and kid’s playrooms.

Is there anything unexpected about the club?
The newly-restored Tullamore House and gardens also form part of the Next Gen Doncaster experience. The 100-year-old homestead has been fully restored and is transformed into a very special extension of the member lounge and dining space. It is a truly unique offering for us and for the community.

Unlike many fitness facilities, Next Gen Doncaster has been designed specifically for its purpose. The reward for this has been an open, spacious environment with abundant natural light and panoramic views across the suburbs of Melbourne. There’s a palpable sense of space which adds to the luxurious feel of the club surroundings. In addition, the design complements what we now all understand to be crucial for a COVID-safe environment to be provided for our members and staff.

What ‘new’ experiences are on offer?
Next Gen Doncaster is very closely aligned with the premium country clubs of Asia, Europe or the USA. It’s a leisure, health and lifestyle destination unique in Melbourne. In addition, we’ve introduced an ultra-premium Tullamore Club membership. This new category is an elevated level of facility and service and offers a private members’ lounge and verandah, themed dining event and in-house dining credits, bespoke training and coach programmes, unique corporate networking opportunities and exclusive merchandise.

Next Gen Doncaster is a true destination at a time when fitness offerings are becoming more fragmented. Our club offers everything that’s great about the best fitness studios in the market but then adds fantastic sporting, leisure, relaxation and dining options for the whole family.

More: www.nextgenclubs.com.au

Restored landmark building, Tullamore House in Doncaster, has been fused into the new development Credit: Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
Aquatics and tennis centres are a key feature of Next Gen clubs Credit: Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
The 11,000sq m Doncaster Club has an extensive gym floor Credit: Next Gen / Doug Balcomb
The club in Victoria has been designed as a flagship wellness lifestyle offering Credit: Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
The Doncaster club has four competition-grade tennis courts Credit: Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
COVID-secure interiors prioritise good ventilation Credit: Next Gen / Doug Balcomb
The Premium Spa has a vitality pool, ice bath and monsoon shower Credit: Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
The cinematic cycle studio with bikes by Technogym Credit: Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2022 issue 1

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Brett Leahy, MD, Next Gen Australia

Interview

Brett Leahy, MD, Next Gen Australia


"We’ve created the ultimate health and lifestyle club that has everything you love in one incredible resort-inspired location"

Leahy is growing Next Gen as a lifestyle brand and actively looking for more sites Next Gen/Brett Leahy
Restored landmark building, Tullamore House in Doncaster, has been fused into the new development Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
Aquatics and tennis centres are a key feature of Next Gen clubs Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
The 11,000sq m Doncaster Club has an extensive gym floor Next Gen / Doug Balcomb
The club in Victoria has been designed as a flagship wellness lifestyle offering Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
The Doncaster club has four competition-grade tennis courts Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
COVID-secure interiors prioritise good ventilation Next Gen / Doug Balcomb
The Premium Spa has a vitality pool, ice bath and monsoon shower Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb
The cinematic cycle studio with bikes by Technogym Next Gen/ Doug Balcomb

How did Next Gen start?
Next Generation Clubs was a successful portfolio of premium clubs in the UK and this model was brought out to Australia with the first site opening in late 1999 at Memorial Drive, Adelaide.

Over the intervening 20 years, we’ve developed a string of private members clubs across Australia and New Zealand.

How do you fund your growth?
Next Gen Health and Lifestyle Clubs is owned by private equity group Kings Park Capital out of the UK. KPC has been the owner of Next Gen for the past 10 years.

What was the original vision?
To develop premium racquet clubs adjacent to or as part of iconic tennis clubs and facilities across Australia.

How has this evolved?
Over time this original vision has broadened in scope. We identified that our clubs were delivering a wide variety of leisure, fitness and sporting pursuits – far wider than the original intention of a tennis focus.

In an attempt to more accurately reflect the direction of the business in 2015 we changed our name and related branding to Next Gen Health and Lifestyle Clubs.

What shape is the business in today?
Next Gen currently has six locations. Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland. In addition to extensive fitness facilities and studios, each has an indoor and an outdoor pool, spa and sauna, children’s playrooms, crèche, members’ lounge, restaurant and bar – and tennis courts with a variety of surfaces.

Three of our clubs have function/conference centres and four have squash courts. Our clubs also have pro shops and host retail tenants such as hairdressers and physiotherapists and other allied health practitioners.

What plans do you have to develop it going forward? 
We’re looking to grow the portfolio and will continue with our search for specific club sites of suitable size and location. The owners have no specific goals for site growth. More important is the careful selection of sites that will enable the development of a flagship club such as Next Gen in locations that will ensure their success.

Who are your customers?
The average age of a Next Gen member is 44. The membership base is split equally male to female. They tend to be seeking out a more holistic and social club membership when they become members or they come to us to join our gym and evolve to become a member of our club.

As a result, the average tenure of a Next Gen member is considerably longer than in a standard fitness facility.

Tell us about the team
The senior executive comprises me as MD, Gavin Rowe as FD, Richard Furlong, executive GM, Australia, and Annette MacAndrew as marketing manager.

Other senior staff include Rob Mecham, sales manager, Melissa Moussallem, people and culture, Carlos King executive GM – New Zealand and Daniel Everard, product manager.

In addition, each club has its own GM, along with a team of relevant industry specialists.

The strengths that this team brings as a whole is the diversity and depth of experience, along with a passion for both the industry generally and for Next Gen specifically.

What makes Next Gen special and different?
All of our clubs are designed and constructed specifically for their purpose. Natural light, ventilation and a sense of space are important features and have been of particular importance to our members since the start of the pandemic.

Our clubs are set up to offer a superior value proposition – we have a HIIT studio, cycle studio, yoga studio and group fitness studio, as well as a gym, an aquatic centre, a tennis centre and finally a members’ bar, lounge and restaurant. All for one membership and all under one roof.

Tell us about the customer journey
We place strong emphasis on a quality onboarding and retention experience for members. New members are offered a 60-day ‘Next Steps Passport’ programme that introduces them to everything the club has to offer in terms of facility, programmes and service.

On the gym floor we have an initial body composition scan consultation, along with an initial personalised programming session. Both of which can be refreshed at six-weekly intervals.

We have a tenure loyalty programme that provides members with a sliding scale of discounts for in-club purchases and services and Next Gen offers a range of children- and family-focussed activities such as holiday active programmes, swim school and tennis lessons, homework club, family fitness classes, movie nights and supervised play.

Retention at Next Gen is as much about family and social engagement and activity as it is about fitness and results. We have an extensive calendar of activities for members and their family groups in all areas of the club.

Who designs your clubs?
Design is completed by our in-house team. We look to our successful design formulae from previous clubs and then combine that with the latest innovations out of Europe and the UK in particular. We look to include a variety of facilities that provide choice to members, as well as designing-in the aforementioned sense of space via natural light, ventilation and aspects.

How important is your F&B operation? 
It’s a fundamental way that we differentiate ourselves from fitness operators or community leisure centres. We have a fully licensed bar and full-service restaurant for members. Our function centres host weddings, milestone birthdays for members, Christmas functions, trade shows, corporate training and conferences.

Might you expand internationally?
We’re already in New Zealand and will look to add to the portfolio over there if the right site presents itself.

How have you coped during the pandemic?
COVID-19 has thrown plenty of new challenges at our business and our industry. We’ve learned that we’re a resilient and adaptable bunch.

With the support of our owners, members and staff we got through the 2020 lockdowns and rebounded very strongly throughout the start of 2021.

We’ve continued both member and staff engagement online and have developed a library of workout resources for members to access at home.

Being the type of club we are, we’ve also included colouring competitions, family trivia nights and chef recipes for members to utilise.

What are your views on the state of the industry in Australia and NZ? 
I think the importance of wellness – both physical and mental – will continue to increase. Clubs such as ours will play an important role in offering the broadest range of services in this space.

The fitness offering will continue to fragment with specialist operators emerging but there will still be a place for a premium lifestyle alternative such as ours.

Tell us about your newest club
Next Gen Doncaster is a flagship club for us and is delivering the premium facilities and service we’re renowned for. We’ve created the ultimate health and lifestyle club that has everything you love in one incredible resort-inspired location.

What does it offer?
Set on over 11,000sq m, the club boasts the latest innovations in fitness, including dedicated functional training zones, cutting-edge Technogym equipment, Outrace high intensity training facilities and a full schedule of studio classes.

There’s also a reformer Pilates studio, yoga, Les Mills speciality classes and a cinematic cycle studio.

In addition, the ultimate relaxation experience is waiting in the Premium Spa, which features a sauna, steamroom, vitality spa pool, an ice bath and a monsoon shower with an adjacent outdoor relaxation garden. Indoor and outdoor sun lounges and cabanas complete the experience.

We offer four competition-grade tennis courts for member bookings, professional tennis coaching, social and competition tennis. Members can also enjoy extensive aquatic facilities, with indoor and seasonal outdoor heated pools offering lap swimming, aqua fitness classes and learn-to-swim programmes.

Next Gen Doncaster also features a members’ lounge with a licensed bar, café and restaurant, and an extensive array of family-friendly facilities and programmes, including a crèche and kid’s playrooms.

Is there anything unexpected about the club?
The newly-restored Tullamore House and gardens also form part of the Next Gen Doncaster experience. The 100-year-old homestead has been fully restored and is transformed into a very special extension of the member lounge and dining space. It is a truly unique offering for us and for the community.

Unlike many fitness facilities, Next Gen Doncaster has been designed specifically for its purpose. The reward for this has been an open, spacious environment with abundant natural light and panoramic views across the suburbs of Melbourne. There’s a palpable sense of space which adds to the luxurious feel of the club surroundings. In addition, the design complements what we now all understand to be crucial for a COVID-safe environment to be provided for our members and staff.

What ‘new’ experiences are on offer?
Next Gen Doncaster is very closely aligned with the premium country clubs of Asia, Europe or the USA. It’s a leisure, health and lifestyle destination unique in Melbourne. In addition, we’ve introduced an ultra-premium Tullamore Club membership. This new category is an elevated level of facility and service and offers a private members’ lounge and verandah, themed dining event and in-house dining credits, bespoke training and coach programmes, unique corporate networking opportunities and exclusive merchandise.

Next Gen Doncaster is a true destination at a time when fitness offerings are becoming more fragmented. Our club offers everything that’s great about the best fitness studios in the market but then adds fantastic sporting, leisure, relaxation and dining options for the whole family.

More: www.nextgenclubs.com.au


Originally published in Health Club Management 2022 issue 1

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