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Sports Direct to open gyms

Sports Direct is to open fitness centres above its stores, ahead of a nationwide launch of standalone gyms.

Branded Sports Direct Fitness, the gyms will initially open above new stores in Aintree and St Helens in Merseyside and Keighley in West Yorkshire.

Membership is set to cost around £33 a month. Personal training, pools and spas will be available alongside fitness classes. A website for the new venture has been launched at www.sportsdirectfitness.com.

The retailer will also refit 13 existing gyms across the UK. The leases are being taken over from the LA Fitness chain, which is current undergoing a major corporate restructuring.

Sports Direct has been in talks with LA Fitness to take over part of its gym portfolio since May. The gym chain wanted to sell 33 of its 80 clubs as part of a restructuring plan to reduce its debt burden by £250m.

The first branch to be taken over by Sports Direct was the Sale, Manchester location in June, with others expected to follow. The Sports Direct Fitness website states that the gyms will close or partially close over the “coming months” to be rebranded and refurbished with new equipment. Existing staff will keep their jobs.

Some landlords have refused to transfer leases to Sports Direct, leading to the closure of existing LA Fitness gyms including its Cambridge Leisure Centre site.

The news comes off the back of strong results posted by the Mike Ashley-led business earlier this month. Annual sales at Sports Direct soared 23.8% to £2.7bn, with pre-tax profits edging towards £250m.

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