In conversation with Colin Waggett

Colin Waggett is CEO of London health clubs Third Space. Prior to joining, he’d energised the London fitness scene by founding the highly popular boutique Psycle. Someone who lives his work, Colin recently completed a charity bike ride across southern France. We meet at Polpo, Beak Street, around the corner from Third Space’s Golden Square head office. We have an hour, as he’s off to test out a new “animal movement” class.

Why do you work in fitness?
I’ve worked in hotels, casinos, lots of different areas. Fitness was the field I’ve always felt real affinity with. I want to enjoy my work.

You worked at Fitness First, founded a boutique (Psycle) and now you’re back at a health club. What excites you about Third Space?
Working at Fitness First, I learned I wanted to focus more on customer proposition, something I could affect and be proud of. Comparatively, Third Space is small enough to be malleable, but with a structure that allows us to get things done. It has powerful assets in place in the form of existing sites, but at the time I took the role, a relatively clean sheet in terms of what it could become as a brand.

Why did Third Space need a redesigned brand identity?
The appearance didn’t match the experience. A few years ago, if you dropped someone blindfolded into one of our gyms and (removing blindfold) asked them to describe the experience, the words they would use wouldn’t tally with the visuals. Fitness has moved on. Whilst our offer had followed, our brand identity hadn’t.

What effect has the rebrand had? What has it achieved?
Our brand isn’t a USP brand, it’s more about being distinctive. All aspects of the identity now reflect the unique feel of the experience. It now delivers on the “blindfold test”. There is 100% more traffic to, and strong leads from, our website, our food retail is now a valuable revenue generator, price perception has transformed – we’ve raised prices considerably to fund expansion and development, but membership is stronger than ever. We’ve had a great year.

Is the type of person enquiring about membership changing? What lifestyle trends are most promising for TS? What trends pose the most threat?
Fitness used to be a necessary antidote to your lifestyle. Now it’s a positive part of  your lifestyle. That we’re now a lifestyle brand is a powerful transformation. Another positive is the rise of organising stuff online, but doing things in real life. People are interested in experiences. On the downside, as a business with high headcount and physical spaces, we are hit hard by current tax laws, which feels very unfair.

What’s the most inspiring member story you’ve heard?
At Fitness First we had awards. The most affecting stories were never those from athletes or bodybuilders, but from people written off by the medical profession who had overcome injury or illness through fitness, usually by working with an empathetic Personal Trainer; mothers who could now play with their kids for example. The audience would be in tears.

What’s you favourite London tip / hidden gem?
The Marylebone suite at the top of The Marylebone Hotel. It has an amazing outdoor terrace with a fire. It’s the coolest suite in the world, a great place for a party.