Sports retailer and gym group DW Sports has said it is to enter administration, putting 1,700 jobs at risk, after its revenues were severely impacted by the closure of gyms during lockdown.
The company, which was founded by former Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan, is expected to appoint insolvency specialists on Monday.
DW Sports operated 73 gyms and 75 stores in the UK. It plans to close all of ts retail sites for good, and its website will cease trading immediately.
The company plans to protect as many jobs and gyms as possible through the restructuring process.
DW Sports stressed that Fitness First, which is a sister company of DW, will continue to operate as a separate company and its 43 clubs will be unaffected by the administration.
The administrators intend to support employees, customers and gym members as far as possible while they look to secure a buyer or buyers for some or all of the DW Sports portfolio.
At present, 59 of its gyms have reopened in England and Northern Ireland, with a further 14 sites in England, Scotland and Wales unable to open because of government restrictions.
The company’s chief executive, Martin Long, said: “As a consequence of Covid-19, we found ourselves in a position where we were mandated by government to close down both our retail store portfolio and our gym chain in its entirety for a protracted period, leaving us with a high fixed-cost base and zero income.
“Like many other retail businesses, the consequences of this extremely challenging operating market have created inevitable profitability issues for DW Sports.
“The decision to appoint administrators has not been taken lightly but will give us the best chance to protect viable parts of the business, return them to profitability, and secure as many jobs as possible.
“It is a difficult model for any business to manage through without long-term damage, and with the limited support which we have been able to gain.
“Having exhausted all other available options for the business, we firmly believe that this process can be a platform to restructure the business and preserve many of our gyms for our members, and also protect the maximum number of jobs possible for our team members.”
Additional reporting by PA news agency
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