'Money's expensive': GoodLife CEO on paying back Feds' LEEFF loan
As COVID-19 closed down gyms and recreation centers across the country, more Canadians turned to home gyms and home exercise programs like Peloton to break a sweat. Despite the shift, the head of Canada’s largest health club company, GoodLife Fitness Centres Inc., is not concerned about this trend.
"It’s actually not a threat at all, it’s a huge asset,” said GoodLife Fitness founder and CEO David Patchell-Evans in a television interview. “Who it’s a threat to though, is people that can’t afford Peloton or don’t have room in their house for a private gym.”
Heading into the pandemic, Patchell-Evans explained that GoodLife Fitness was enjoying its best year: the company has 320 clubs across the country and over one million members were signed on. Once the pandemic hit, revenues hit near-zero and roughly 80 per cent of the staff were temporarily laid off.
“I guess the best way to say is it’s been incredibly hard. We’ve only been open, all the clubs, 57 days over the last year” Patchell-Evans said. “We don’t charge people when we’re not open and when we closed, we paid our staff for two weeks to make sure they were looked after.”
He added that the company had been working with the government to apply for programs to support the business during this downturn. One of these programs was the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), which allows companies to tap into a bridge loan if they are struggling to generate revenue on their own. LEEFF granted GoodLife Fitness $310 million in loans.
Part of the company’s strategy was to pivot to these changing home work-out trends by offering a remote personal training program for its members back in June 2020.
Patchell-Evans remains optimistic that gym-goers will flock back to GoodLife Fitness clubs as soon as the pandemic subsided.
“You can always do sit-ups and push-ups in your house, but it doesn’t hold you nearly as accountable, it’s not as much fun, you don’t have a sense of community,” he said. “We provided all kinds of online fitness for people… but we know people prefer a club, they always have.”