Quick, easy gyms get LA Fitness into shape

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The Independent Online

Soaring demand for "quick and easy" workouts from the time-pressed but health-conscious helped LA Fitness survive "challenging" trading conditions with a sharp rise in profits. The health clubs group, which last year resisted the urge to cut its stock market losses and delist, yesterday said underlying sales rose 5 per cent in the six months to 31 January.

Soaring demand for "quick and easy" workouts from the time-pressed but health-conscious helped LA Fitness survive "challenging" trading conditions with a sharp rise in profits. The health clubs group, which last year resisted the urge to cut its stock market losses and delist, yesterday said underlying sales rose 5 per cent in the six months to 31 January.

Fred Turok, the group's co-founder and chief executive, said gyms were losing their "sociable" squash or rugby club feel and becoming somewhere that people just popped into to burn off a few calories. "People are looking much more for a quick and easy 40-minute workout rather than spending the leisurely three or four hours with us that they did in the olden days," he said.

By encouraging existing members to add a partner to their membership, Mr Turok said the company's retention rate - the number of people who choose to renew their commitment - was fairly stable at 70 per cent. Membership rose 19 per cent in the past six months, increasing its total to 196,000.

Two new sites opened during the period, with another two to come in the next six months. The group, which is using cash flow to fund new openings, trimmed its net debt by £3.3m to £48.2m. Pre-tax profits rose 34 per cent to £3.7m. The shares, down 4p yesterday at 181.5p, are near a 12-month high.

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