John Cleland joins Esporta health clubs as new CEO

Esporta’s search for a new CEO is over. John Cleland (44) joined the company last week and takes on the challenge to navigate Esporta towards better times. Cleland is a highly experienced retailer with a proven track record across the retail industry. He was appointed to the Somerfield Board as Chief Operating Officer in February 2006 and was formerly Commercial Managing Director of B&Q. Prior to that he was Cleland was Senior Vice President Operations at Wal-Mart Japan and Retail Managing Director at Wal-Mart UK. He also held a number of Trading Director roles at Asda. Clearly, an impressive ‘retail’ record, but will he be able to get inside the hearts and minds of Esporta members who have slowly been leaving the brand in search of alternative exercise solutions.

Cleland will now spend time getting to understand the membership and had this to say on his appointment:

‘Esporta’s customer-focused team will ensure that our members’ needs are at the forefront of every decision we take and our customer service aim will be to surpass our members’ expectations on every interaction.’

Now that’s what I call ambition.

Esporta is also now testing the idea of lowering membership fees for those members willing to sign 18-month contracts. It’s an interesting move and probably the right one for the company, as its present pricing structure is not sustainable over the medium term. Why pay £83 per month (€93 Euros), if you’re an infrequent club exerciser (there are lots around)? However, while the company tests its longer contracts, I would suggest it looks at shortening its contractual notice period, which is a key driver of its negative online reputation.

Esporta Quick Facts:

  • Operates 55 premium health and fitness clubs across the UK.
  • Membership approximately 160,000 (although one has just left while writing this story!).
  • Now owned by Société Générale.


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