Memberships grow at local authority leisure centre during lockdown

Trafford Leisure’s new move Urmston site, which closed its doors just five days after launching its £7m redevelopment due to lockdown in March, reopened with an impressive 53% rise in memberships.


The leisure centre, which has bucked the trend across the UK during the pandemic, has grown its membership through lockdown and beyond with a strategy of customer engagement, open communications with its members and a strong marketing campaign.


Jo Cherrett, COO, Trafford Leisure says: “My team and our suppliers worked so hard to get move Urmston up and running, and we were devastated to have to shut the doors just five days after its launch. However, our efforts had already had an impact, as even while closed in lockdown our membership has grown, perhaps thanks to an intensive two weeks of fully booked, half-hourly tours of the building, promoting our facilities in early March, enhanced by a strong marketing campaign.”


Trafford Leisure, which runs nine leisure centres across the borough on behalf of Trafford Council, made a strategy decision at the start of lockdown to give customers choice over their memberships; to continue paying, freeze or leave.


Cherrett says: “Our strategy was to start an open dialogue with our customers, asking them, if they were in the position to continue their direct debit payments, to do so, and explaining their generous ‘donation’ would help pay staff salaries, local suppliers and sustain building and maintenance.  It was a risky move.  It took a delicate balance in our messaging, but during the month of May 40% of our memberships across the business, including swimming, gym and golf, continued to pay. I was humbled by the Trafford community for their support and kindness.”


Along with strong communications, Trafford Leisure and move Urmston created an online support hub to engage customers whilst the leisure centres were closed, including online classes and activities for children, such as home sports days and first aid training for the young.


Since reopening in July, Trafford Leisure’s £7 million redevelopment of Urmston Leisure Centre has earned praised for its innovative design and sustainability by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) in its latest Journal. The redevelopment was praised for its commitment to public health, as well as ensuring the centre was greener, more efficient and reduced its carbon footprint. The rebuilding and extension to the gym and studio was hailed for its innovative use of natural light and ventilation, which saves energy and keeps users of move Urmston from overheating during their work out.


Architects, 5 Plus, redesigned a series of small rooms at the front of the building into a simple space, with an open entrance, without turnstiles, and a clip and climb wall behind a glass facade.


5 Plus’s plan kept the original building’s large sports hall as a generous flexible space, which is currently hosting 60 socially distanced classes a week, that few private gyms and competitors have access to.


Cherrett continues: “I’m delighted move urmston has been recognised for its innovative, inclusive and sustainable design. It is a space that welcomes and inspires people to try something new for the first time – from exercise classes, swimming and the gym. move Urmston is increasingly becoming a beacon for the people of Trafford to take their first steps towards a healthier lifestyle.  move Urmston is so much more than a leisure centre and we have loved bringing this community hub to life for the people of Trafford; it makes it even more special to have grown the business and the brand during such a difficult time.”

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