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Shock closure of Fitness First in Southampton

Fitness First in Southampton, which will close within two weeks

Fitness First in Southampton, which will close within two weeks

First published in Hampshire Business Andover Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , Education Reporter

SHOCKED members of a popular Southampton gym have been told it is closing within two weeks.

Struggling chain Fitness First has announced it is shutting the Shirley Road branch as it attempts to cut huge losses.

The news sparked “uproar” among the thousands of upset members when they discovered their £25-a-month subscriptions would be ended within a fortnight.

Philip Austin, who has been using the gym for three years, said he was “very disappointed” by the news.

The 50-year-old company director, from Marchwood, said: “As a gymnasium it was probably one of the best in the area.

“I feel sorry for the staff because they do work hard and it was a friendly club. The people there were really helpful and there was no stuffiness there.

“Apparently there was an uproar in the club when people heard. It was a busy club and it will be missed.”

Poole-based Fitness First, which runs 417 centres across the UK, Germany, Australia and Asia, announced earlier this year it had entered a company voluntary agreement (CVA) to sell 67 of its British clubs as part of a restructuring to save the business.

The chain was saved from administration when landlords agreed to slash rents by around 70 per cent in a deal that saw its £600million of debt wiped out.

But last month it posted a pre-tax loss of £671.5million for the 12 months to October 2011, compared with a loss of £82.9million for the year before.

Fitness First confirmed the Southampton branch, which has been open since 1998 and has 2,364 members, is closing on December 12 as part of the chain’s restructuring.

Amongst the personal trainers at the gym is world champion bodybuilder Marina Cornwall.

In letters sent to members, bosses apologised to customers for the short notice ahead of the closure and promised refunds for anyone who has pre-paid their subscriptions.

The company added it will “continue to work hard with the club landlord” to find a new operator for the gym.

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