For the past seven years, Fitness Superstore has been offering both experts and newbies alike a vast range of sports equipment to suit all levels, with customers travelling to the Tunbridge Wells store from across the county. Here, Hannah Patterson speaks to Malcolm Faber, Head of Retail Operations, about the UK’s number one fitness retailer
How long has Fitness Superstore been operating for?
Fitness Superstore has been trading for over 20 years and Paul Walker is our Managing Director. My role with the business is to look after our store network across the UK. The Tunbridge Wells store has now been here for the last 7 years. The Tunbridge Wells store like all our others is what we refer to as a Destination Store meaning most of our customers travel to us knowing that we have the product and expertise that they need.
What makes you worth the journey?
The vast range of gym machinery and equipment, including exclusive brands, and we provide an advisory in-store service alongside it. Our ethos here is that we take the time to work with our customers to discover what the best option for them is. If they’ve got any injuries or want to achieve specific goals, then this is something we can talk through with them. Our staff have backgrounds in sport so they can talk you through what best suits you – no one here is going to start selling you a product on arrival. It’s about taking the time to get to know you.
And how did you get into this role?
My background is marketing and sales, including investment banking, sales management at Royal Mail and running my own business.
Are you personally into fitness?
I’m embarrassed to say, not as much as I was when I was younger. I’ve been here for six years and, ironically, I probably do the least exercise now as I’m so busy investing myself into this place! Saying that, I do have one of our exercise bikes that I jump on when I get home, which suits my busy lifestyle. This was the perfect job for me as I’ve always hated gyms, but loved fitness. I think it’s the unhealthy competitive attitude that I don’t enjoy, and I can tell from speaking with many of our customers that a lot of them feel the same way.
Do you have a ‘typical’ customer?
Not at all, although a lot of our customers are those who are fed up with the gym. A lot of
people are spending money on full gym memberships only to use one or two pieces of
equipment. People are becoming more and more health conscious. It’s no longer gym bunnies who are seeking out equipment – it’s all ages and all fitness levels. It’s not just those with a ton of disposable income. You can get a treadmill here for £500 or one for £7,000. There are those who want to have a bike in their bedroom, and those who want to kit-out a fancy home gym. You never know who is going to walk through the door. We offer a 0% finance option, so we aren’t exclusive. We work very hard to be accessible to everyone from any economic background. We also provide suitable equipment to a lot of local schools and fitness centres, including St Gregory’s, Kent College, Assassins and SixForty Studios.
What is the most popular piece of equipment?
I think the cross trainer and treadmill will always be up there, but the rowing machines
and bikes are becoming increasingly popular. We get a lot of elderly people referred to us from local healthcare providers to buy a bike in preparation for an operation, or to gently improve overall fitness. There has also been a definite growing interest in weight training, especially among young people, which is cheaper in general – but ultimately you will always need a combination of cardio and weights to effectively workout. Plus, you don’t have to always go for the most expensive treadmill if you’re just wanting to do a little walking each day to tick off some cardio.
In addition to weight training, have you noticed any other growing trends in the fitness world?
Cross fit. It’s the biggest trend of the moment, without a doubt! It combines weights and cardio through circuit training. It’s huge in America and even here there are gyms dedicated to cross fit. Other than that, yoga is still huge, and boxing is popular. We cater for all, and like people to know they can come to us for a punchbag or strike tube, and their yoga mat or yoga bricks, as well as the heavier equipment.
If I were to come in as a customer, what should I expect?
Come in, talk to us and try it out! We usually spend, at the very least, half an hour with a client. This time is spent working out exactly what it is they need, asking those questions, and answering any that they might have. We always encourage our customers to try the products out. We had a family of marathon runners in the other day, in their gym kit, trying out one of our brand new state of the art running machines that minimises impact on the joints. Then there are customers coming from as far as Dover and Folkestone to test out pieces of equipment they’re interested in. One thing I would recommend trying out is a fluid rowing machine! I’m surprised to find a lot of people are only aware of the Concept air rowers that you get in gyms and don’t realise how much better, and sometimes cheaper, a fluid rower is – you get a far better workout and it feels like you’re actually on the water. The overall experience is much smoother.
And how does the delivery process work?
Obviously no one walks out of here with a rowing machine under their arm! Most of our branches don’t have stock in store, except display models, so it’s only the small accessories and weights that you can expect to take home with you on the day. However, if you order anything in store with us before 3pm, then your purchase can be in your house the next day. We also offer an installation service, which I’d recommend using, as we get a lot of calls from customers who are wondering what the spare screw they found is for. All of our display equipment is set up by our sales assistants, so they can easily help you sort any issue over the phone if you choose to put it together yourself.
Do you operate online as well as in store?
We do, but I like to recommend for customers to come in and try the equipment before purchasing. That really is the only way to find what’s truly right for you. The Tunbridge Wells store is open seven days a week in the centre of town, in Grosvenor Road – so there’s plenty of time to pop down and take advantage of the staff’s expertise.
30-34 Grosvenor Rd, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2AP
01604 673042 or 01604 673000