David Lloyd Leisure: Interview with Glenn Earlam, Chair
Glenn Earlam is no stranger to “delighting customers” and growing businesses. Having recently been appointed as Executive Chair, we chat to Glenn about how David Lloyd Leisure is embracing the opportunities to grow and diversify in the post Covid era.
The pandemic has thrown some serious challenges for all types of businesses but as we emerge from it, there are clearly opportunities to capitalise on changes in consumer demand and a greater emphasis on personal health and wellbeing. What do you see as the key growth opportunities for DLL in the next 12 -24 months?
The pandemic has been extraordinarily tough for the health and fitness sector, but along with all the challenges we’ve faced, it has also brought opportunity.
If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us, it’s to value our health – both physically and mentally. There has undoubtedly been a shift in attitudes as people look to embrace a healthier way of life and are prepared to invest in their wellbeing. In the last three months membership enquiries are double what we’d expect to see at this time of the year.
People’s lives have changed and they are looking for different things now. Consumers value work/life balance, convenience and flexibility, and they want to use technology to support their lifestyle and to make it simpler. We now have a short window of opportunity to adapt rapidly to provide the products that today’s consumers are looking for, so we need to be dynamic and nimble.
As the sector emerges from the pandemic how do you see consumer choice evolving in terms of destination clubs, budget gyms, boutiques and home-based digital offerings?
Recent years have seen a diversification in the fitness market. Gyms are enjoying a boom, but there is also a demand for more niche offerings, as consumers look for variety and products that suit their own needs.
There has also been a boom in people looking for ‘destination clubs’ – somewhere they can spend a few hours or even a whole day doing a range of activities under one roof. Our Clubs are a big part of our members lives with the social and mental health benefits that they bring. We offer a wide range of group exercise studios, tennis, spa and swimming facilities, the latest in health and fitness equipment and the advice and support of our team of experts. But more than that, our members see us very much as a community, and an integral part of their lifestyle where they come to meet friends, spend time with their family or work, rather than just somewhere to exercise.
Our members see us very much as a community, and an integral part of their lifestyle where they come to meet friends, spend time with their family or work, rather than just somewhere to exercise.
During lockdown, our houses became home, office, gym, school and our social space. Now people want to escape and go somewhere where they can see others in a safe, supportive and positive environment. They see us as a destination for the day, rather than a trip to the gym.
Of course, the other big shift the pandemic has brought about is the demand for home workouts. Necessity has forced us to find new ways to keep fit from home, and virtual workouts have seen a huge boost. We launched our own product David Lloyd Clubs @Home which offered a range of live and on demand digital workouts. However, research has shown that most of our members see these virtual products as complementary to their in-club experience, rather than as a replacement.
With a number of Clubs now in operation across Europe, what plans are in place for further overseas expansion?
Despite the challenges of the last 18 months, we still have ambitious plans to grow at pace. Our premium family-focused model has proved to be successful across all markets and we believe that there is significant potential for our business in Europe and beyond. We are in advanced discussions with a few clubs and groups across Europe and our future expansion looks very promising.
Given the reliance on technology during lockdowns, do you now envisage an acceleration in digital/workforce transformation in the short-medium term?
The pandemic has led to a pace of technological advancement never seen before, enabling many of us to effectively work from most locations. Even as restrictions lift, the workforce has a new attitude towards work/life balance and will expect their employers to offer them more freedom and choice as to when and where they work.
This has affected our sector in several ways. We plan to continue to invest and grow our David Lloyd Clubs @Home offering to give our members flexibility and access to premium content for when they are unable to come into the club.
The majority of our clubs are based in suburban areas and so we have seen a spike in memberships from people want to join a health club near their homes rather than the office. We have seen a surge in demand for our adult-only business lounges, as workers combine their hectic schedules and meetings with more frequent workouts throughout the day. We plan to develop further to capitalise on this trend and will be investing in our business lounges. Technology will be key in this area.
Tracking apps and devices have seen a huge boom, encompassing all aspects of wellness including mental health, sleep and nutrition.
The pandemic has seen many of us become much more tech-savvy, looking at ways it can simplify our lives and free up our time. Consumers are also looking for technology to support and motivate them with their health and fitness. Tracking apps and devices have seen a huge boom, encompassing all aspects of wellness including mental health, sleep and nutrition. We are developing our products with this trend in mind, working with third parties as well as innovating in-house.
Following your 6-year tenure as CEO of David Lloyd, what has been your greatest achievement and what one piece of advice would you pass on?
Transforming the culture of the company to make it a better place to work, with a greater focus on delivering excellent service to our members.
The company culture has changed significantly in the last six years, and I am proud that during that time we have featured in the Sunday Times’ Top 25 Best Big Companies to work for, on four occasions. Our team are our biggest advocates and their passion and commitment to the business is apparent from the moment that you walk through the doors of all of our clubs. This engagement impacts all aspects of our members’ experience and is what ensures that they remain loyal, engaged, and in turn, become advocates for the business too.
My one piece of advice is to always be humble. Recognising that your people – team and customers – are the most important asset that you have and taking the time to really listen and understand before making decisions will make you a stronger, more inspirational leader.
Glenn Earlam graduated from Staffordshire Polytechnic with a degree in Business Studies in 1988. He joined Unilever in the Unilever Company Management Development Scheme as a Marketing graduate, starting in Brooke Bonds Foods working in the marketing, sales and distribution departments.
Glenn joined Tussauds in 1995 as Director of Marketing for Alton Towers, where he launched the UK’s first themed hotel and also the world’s first vertical drop rollercoaster – Oblivion. He became Director of Marketing for The Tussauds Group UK Theme Parks in 1998.
In January 2000, he moved to become Divisional Director for Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park, where he re-positioned both parks, before taking up the role of Managing Director, City Centre Attractions in 2004.
With the merger of the Tussauds Group and Merlin Entertainments Group business, Glenn became the Managing Director for Midway Attractions. Glenn was responsible for 90 visitor attractions including the global management and development of Madame Tussauds, Dungeons, The Eye, SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre brands. Glenn was part of the Executive Board, based in the Company’s Head Office in Poole.
Glenn joined David Lloyd Leisure as Chair in June 2015.