Ladies Workout Express:
Enter a Strong Niche Market

By offering 30 minute workouts exclusively to women, Ladies Workout Express is carving its own segment of the growing fitness industry. Stuart Anderson reports.

Enjoying the new momentum generated by the takeover of the Ladies Workout Express network by UK & Ireland Master Franchisee Chris Donaldson, both new and more established franchisees are pushing for growth in a climate where personal fitness is climbing the national agenda.

Recognising the popularity of the 'ladies only' requirement of the Ladies Workout Express concept, former Marketing Manager Linda Barrett also cites the quality of the equipment as a major benefit for her business. 'I'd always had an interest in fitness and wellbeing, so when I decided to act upon my desire to own my own business I looked at the Ladies Workout Express franchise with interest,' she recalls. 'I got a good feeling from the company, which is very professional, has lots of experience and is achieving success in the industry. The quality of the workout regime means that customers get better value for money - they don't reach a plateau which means they stay members for longer.'

After taking the franchisee training course in Florida, Linda returned with an overall insight into setting up the business, training staff and teaching customers to use the equipment. 'It's not necessary to have previous experience in the fitness industry,' she comments. 'Rather a keen interest is important, and some business experience would be beneficial. The ongoing support is very good, both from the US head office and the UK & Ireland Master Franchisee, which means that if you follow the procedure, it's very difficult to go wrong.'

A week of driving memberships supported on-site by a head office sales specialist allowed Linda to open her Galway franchise for business in July 2005 with 100 members. 'There's a big sales effort in the first week, then you grow progressively after that,' she reflects. 'I do see quite a bit of potential for increasing my membership over the next few months, and hope to see it go up to about 400 by this time next year.'

With ambitions to open two more clubs, Linda reflects upon the importance of the 'ladies only' concept: 'From listening to my customers, I can say that the concept sells itself to women who are 35+. These are women who like to work out in a non-competitive environment and feel comfortable in their surroundings, and who like the fact that it is only half and hour.'

A more established franchisee is Harrowgate-based Tony Johnson, who joined the Ladies Workout Express network after reading about the concept in The Franchise Magazine in May 2002. 'I'd never had any professional contact with the fitness industry,' he asserts. 'I'd worked in various roles in the food industry, covering technical, commercial, marketing and sales with various companies, and had got sick of the corporate world. I wanted to try something which my heart is in, and I'd always been a fitness enthusiast.'

Tony was also attracted by the quality of the workout offered by Ladies Workout Express. 'I visited the impressive head office gym and my interest grew from there,' he recalls. 'As all markets mature they segment and go into niches and that's happening in the fitness industry. The ladies only niche is a relatively small - but very strong - market.'

Opening his club with 63 members, Tony reported total sales of £94,000 in his first year, and has driven this up to £143,000 in year two and £190,000 in year three. 'The start up costs are not terrifically high,' he reveals. 'It requires hard work and long hours, but it's worth it. My membership has grown to over 600 now, and through the sales growth is seasonal, its net direction is definitely up.'

With a target profit of £35,000 set for the club this year, Tony is now planning to expand his business with two or even three new clubs. 'The new Master Franchisee has had a positive influence and we've opened up three new franchisees already,' he reports. 'I'm getting more calls from people interested in the franchise and the momentum seems to be growing.'