Debenhams, which issued a profit warning for 2018 in June, is pushing ahead with plans to introduce gyms in store.
The first gym is scheduled to open in Sutton, south-west London, by 10 September, and will be joined by sites in Manchester and Bristol in 2019.
It is part of a partnership with fitness chain Sweat, which already has five locations around the country, including Glasgow, Sheffield and Chelmsford in Essex.
The initiative aims to drive footfall from the gym chain’s predominantly female members, who are typically aged 18 to 33. Gym-goers will also be offered shopping incentives that increase the more they attend.
Debenhams CEO Sergio Bucher said the opening of the 17,575 sq ft fitness facility in Sutton is “an integral part of the Debenhams Redesigned strategy to deliver ‘social shopping’”.
The strategy, unveiled in April 2017, aims to drive efficiency and digital growth, and create destination stores. The agreement with Sweat follows a partnership with beauty app Blow. Beauty bars due to open in store in Debenhams’ Watford and Sheffield stores later this year.
Some experts have expressed doubt at this new approach.
Sofie Willmott, retail analyst at GlobalData told Drapers last month that many of the initiatives had missed the mark: “Putting gyms or Wework [the flexible office space provider] in stores is confusing. It looks [akin to] a desperate strategy to fill space.”
In March 2018, there were reports that Debenhams was in talks with companies to rent out unused space at its Oxford Street flagaship and across its 240 department stores.