22 Sep 2023 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2023 issue 2

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Leisure Management - Vintage brands

Everyone's talking about

Vintage brands

The fitness industry is officially old enough to recycle trends and resurrect brands. So is old really gold and is vintage set to become a trend in the 20s? Kath Hudson investigates

Gold’s Gym has a powerful legacy that RSG is tapping into Photo: ©George Butler

If my teenagers are anything to go by, Gen Zers – an important demographic for the industry – love a bit of old skool. They scour sites such as Depop and Vinted for their clothes, shop at vintage stores and kilo sales and look to style icons of the 2000s for fashion tips. Older consumers also like to see the resurgence of something they enjoyed and trusted back in the day.

The vintage trend is burgeoning in the health and fitness sector too, as we see evidence of older brands with legacy and a trusted name being given a fresh new twist and with a growing focus on sustainability, recycling old kit can also make sense in some situations, both from an eco and investment point of view. So are we seeing the start of a new mini movement? We ask the experts.

Pierre Geisensetter
RSG Group/Gold’s Gym

We’re very optimistic about the revival of the iconic Gold’s Gym brand. We want to bring back the glitter to that golden colour and transport the brand and products into the future without losing the legacy. We’re opening new gyms around the world (see overleaf) and our newest milestone in Santa Monica is coming soon.

Older brands are not only cult but cool, with a story and legacy you can’t copy. Gold’s Gym was the birthplace of modern bodybuilding, dating back to Joe Gold, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno working out at the first gym at Venice Beach in California. Originating as a subculture, it became a worldwide phenomenon and those guys are still heroes of the community. It’s about the real deal: serious training, willpower, passion, performance and knowledge, which has built on over the last six decades.

Consumer appetite is bound to trust and they like those brands which have been around and been trusted for generations. In a fast-paced world, where millions of products come and go, it gives you a safe feeling if some things last longer.

Some brands can accompany you your whole life. It is much easier for a vintage brand to become a love brand and that’s what we all want – you love the brand, you buy the brand.

I’m not sure if it will become a mainstream trend to resurrect vintage brands. If you’re able to offer desirable products regardless of time periods it’s a better path than following a trend.

It’s much easier for a vintage brand to become a love brand
George Butler films Arnold Schwarzenegger at Gold’s Gym for the film Pumping Iron / Photo: ©George Butler
Dan Summerson
Everlast Gyms
Established brands such as Everlast have a stable consumer base, says Summerson / Photo: DAN SUMMERSON/EVERLAST GYMS

When we started on our journey, we had a combination of facilities which we wanted to align and transform into a consistent and recognisable concept, so we have been reinventing and modernising the Everlast Gyms brand to provide the ultimate space for our members to be the healthiest version of themselves.

While we continue re-inventing Everlast and bringing to life a model that will provide growth, we’re proud of our heritage and will always stay connected to our boxing roots.

Our new concept delivers a fusion of market-leading equipment, boutique-style classes, swim and F&B.

One of the main advantages of working with a recognisable and well-known brand is its strong, stable consumer base. Our members know and trust the Everlast brand, and they’re ready for a new and improved experience, which is exactly what we’re delivering through our elevation strategy. Our investment is allowing us to strengthen our community, creating a comfortable and diverse offering and giving our members the opportunity to train in a new and premium environment.

Fashion and retail are both strong channels for vintage trends and through this, consumers have a heightened sense of brand affiliation and trust. Consumers are savvier than ever before, which means they demand the efficiency of new technologies and equipment alongside modern spaces, but they still aspire to have a sense of familiarity which can be provided by a classic brand.

Vintage is a trend, but I believe it’s here to stay and evolve. As we continue to elevate the Everlast Gyms proposition, we’re providing enticing and energetic environments for members to be part of. Consumers feel comfortable with vintage brands, as it gives them a sense of familiarity, but there’s an ever-evolving demand for modern experiences in the sector. Through our elevated concept, we meet the needs and demands of our members and provide a space that feels unique and exciting, yet familiar and inclusive.

Fashion and retail are both strong channels for vintage trends
The Everlast brand is owned by Frasers / Photo: HOVE & CO PHOTOGRAPHY
Everlast is famous as the choice of Mohammed Ali / Photo: EVERLAST GYMS
Yves Preissler
Business Consultant
Preissler sees a demand for old skool kit / Photo: Hugues Namaar Yves preissler

In my opinion, old equipment has better quality materials and biomechanics, it feels good to train on because the pump is more noticeable and seeing a moving weight stack is encouraging.

As strength machines never really break it makes sense to reuse them. Thicker steel was used to build the frames of older machines, which are pretty indestructible. Shrouds were made of perforated metal, so could not break like some of today’s plastic shrouds.

As well as being more cost-effective to refurbish existing kit than replace it, unique pieces and vintage design can create a cool club aesthetic.

Strength equipment of the 80s/ 90s and early 2000s is particularly in demand because of its authentic look and durability.

We offer budget-friendly solutions to investors, especially in developing countries. But because vintage equipment is also a style choice, many reputable club chains and established brands choose to buy equipment from us. We’re getting enquiries from all over the world, including being asked for specific pieces – especially from former competitive bodybuilders and their fan base – such as Warehouse Gym Dubai, a leading chain in the United Arab Emirates.

With the resurging interest in strength training and bodybuilding, I think we’ll see a return to the look and feel of old skool. Brands such as Primal, Gym 80, Watson and Atlantis are in demand from operators who have taken inspiration from the good old days of bodybuilding and pumping iron.

The increasing interest in strength training will drive further demand and we’ll see users and owners looking back at history and reviving what was hot.

Unique pieces and vintage design can create a cool club aesthetic
Vintage equipment is overhauled and sold on
Steve Bradley
Topnotch Gyms
Photo: Topnotch gyms

Topnotch was an innovative brand in the 1990s and 2000s – with Planet Spin and The Powerzone, we were the first to offer blackout spin and big screens in cardio rooms – so we believe the time is right to bring it back.

Although I have a great deal of fondness for the brand – as do many of the managers who were around then – the decision to bring it back is very much based on business. We predict the current crisis will create more demand for mid-market brands, catering to those who want to trade down from premium or boutique prices.

The Topnotch brand has been refreshed with a new logo and new look, it’s now more modern and urban and has been renamed Topnotch Gyms, rather than Topnotch Health Clubs. We think it’s chic and has a boutiquey feel, with an emphasis on service, for the affordable price tag of £40-£50 a month.

We’re looking for new sites, as well as assessing our Fitness 4 Less estate for refits, as some of our larger clubs, with saunas and pools, are a good fit for Topnotch. They’ll receive investment and the prices will rise slightly, which means there’ll be a big focus on retention at these locations.

Our first site is in Soho, at the former H2 club, which stopped trading as a result of COVID. The offering was bike storage, lockers and showers for those who cycle into town, along with a small gym. We’re keeping the bike storage and lockers because there’s a market for them, but extending and upgrading the gym, with three studios, top of the range Matrix kit, saunas and a protein shake bar.

More generally, I don’t think we’ll see a huge number of vintage brands being revived – I’m not sure all the companies that were around during the 90s have the same fondness for their brands as we have and we’re reviving ours because it fits the climate.

We thought about starting a new brand, but bringing back Topnotch seemed a more exciting option.

We’re reviving our Topnotch brand because it fits the climate
Topnotch was one of the first to offer screens in cardio areas / Photo: Topnotch gyms
The new Topnotch has been reinvented with an urban feel / Photo: Topnotch gyms
Blast from the past – Topnotch in the 1990s / Photo: Topnotch gyms

Originally published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 2

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