Frustration among fitness centres as gym bosses who feel left behind and urge Scottish Government to set reopening date

GYM and fitness centre owners say they feel increasingly let down with no way forward on the easing of lockdown restrictions and the next steps for their industry.

Independently run studios are calling for clarification from the Scottish Government and are fearful for the future of their businesses the longer closures are in place.

Their calls came after Scots entrepreneur and former Dragons Den Duncan Bannatyne urged the First Minister to set a reopening date.

As reported exclusively in The Herald, in a letter sent to Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, Mr Bannatyne said: “We have in excess of 600 people working in our Scottish Clubs and almost 34,000 members, making a vital contribution to the local economies. I implore you to publish a reopening date or else we may be forced to close a number of sites.”

Gyms and fitness studios have not yet been able to open after Scotland entered phase three of the easing of lockdown roadmap. Latest guidance from the Scottish Government is that gyms would remain closed until July 31, but there has been no firm reopening date.

Claire Adams, of Edinburgh-based Total Fitness, had grown her business from a client base of 30 to more than 150 and had four members of staff. She had secured a 4000sqft property to expand her company with the view of taking on more staff.

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Working 14 hour days, she had plans to launch the first women’s only holistic facility in Edinburgh prior to lockdown.

However, the past few months have been devastating. She has lost half her client base, had to let a staff member go and is worried about the future.

Ms Adams said: “I feel we have been left behind. I am trying to keep a business afloat when we have lost 50% of our revenue.

“We would have five people at the most in our studio along with a coach and we can social distance. Clients would have their own areas and there would be no sharing of equipment. We did get a business grant during lockdown but that, and more, has been put back into the business to make the required changes.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that we can’t open, but yet bars can. We don’t even have a date which would help us plan with our clients. We have had to stay closed for longer, so will there be any further support or VAT cut for us. The longer this goes on, is the Scottish Government prepared for us to lose our businesses.”

Allison Harrison, who runs Hot Yoga Edinburgh Ltd, was left heartbroken when there was still no mention of when she could reopen her doors following weekly updates.

Ms Harrison said: “While it has been great to see some businesses being able to reopen it has hard to take. People can sit in a restaurant with no PPE on, yet I can’t run a class with social distancing in place. I really thought we were facing the end of this last week, but to be honest I am now in despair and don’t know how much longer we can go on like this.”

Ms Harrison took over the business from the original owners after attending classes there. She was inspired to take a teaching course and jumped at the chance to take over the business. She ploughed a six-figure sum to create state of the art premises and has seen her business grow.

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During lockdown they offered a full online schedule, but since other restrictions have eased Ms Harrison says this has affected the numbers and is keen to open her doors with social distancing in place.

Ms Harrison, who is an ambassador for Women’s Enterprise Scotland, an organisation that supports women start up in business and thrive, added: “We have everything ready to go and have been working to SportScotland guidance published online. Mats will be cleaned or people can bring their own and there will be no one to one contact during instruction.

“I think women are being particularly hard hit with the way restrictions are being eased. The Yoga industry is a great example of a sector which is predominantly owned and run by women, and where our businesses are being greatly impacted by this long lockdown.”

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, which represents the health and fitness industry, said: “The continued delay to reopen gyms and leisure centres in Scotland is damaging the sector and threatening its future.

“This delay also risks weakening Scotland’s recovery from COVID-19 by undermining a sector that can have a positive effect on fighting this virus.

“The Scottish Government must continue to work with the sector to set a clear path forward for reopening, providing the necessary clarity.

“Crucially, it should take up the offer to visit facilities and see first-hand the mitigating measures that are being put in place to manage social distancing and cleanliness, after similar visits were conducted successfully in England.

“The sector must be supported to prevent facility closures, significant job losses, and strengthen the health of people across Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Being active is good for physical and mental health and we know that many people have been missing going to the gym. We don’t want these restrictions to be in place a minute longer than we judge to be necessary but, for now, indoor gyms must remain closed as they involve prolonged close social contact, which increases the chance of infection spreading.

“We’d like to thank gym owners and their members for their patience at this challenging time.”

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