l’Orange Bleue will expand its gyms and day spas across France, Spain and Italy / Orange Bleue
José Nercellas, CEO of l’Orange Bleue, is planning to open 450 new European gyms and day spas over the next five years to build an estate of 850 sites.
The chain was founded by Thierry Marquer in 1996 – Nercellas came on board earlier this year from the retail industry, having steered successful expansions of French brands, such as Décathlon, Auchan and Okaidi.
With 400 locations in operation in France and new sites opening up at a rate of 50-100 each year, Nercellas estimates rolling out an additional 200-300 locations across France. He is aiming for similar growth across Spain – where there are currently three properties – and is keen to launch into Italy.
The growth strategy will include opening wholly-owned sites, as well as those under contract as licensed operators – most of which will undergo a design revamp over the next few years.
Out of the 400 locations in France only 17 are owned by l’Orange Bleue, the rest operate under a ‘licence de marque’, which is similar to – but not the equivalent of – a franchise agreement. The fee for a ‘licence de marque’ is around €40,000 and contract holders have to create their own company to run the businesses.
“It’s a different approach from a legal point of view as the contract with a partner mainly consists of transferring know-how and giving operational follow up,” clarified Nercellas, in an exclusive interview with HCM. “We have partners running only one facility and others with between five and 10. Around 50 per cent of our partners have more than one. In the future we’d like to have multi-licensee figures of around 70 per cent.”
Around 11 of l’Orange Bleue’s clubs are day spas with a wellness focus, which is another growth area for the company. “Wellness is our new challenge and I think it’s a niche with huge potential,” said Nercellas. “We would like to develop this part of the company, and we’re currently working on the business approach and the concept.”
Fitness and wellness are two different concepts for the fitness chain, each attracting a different consumer demographic. Wellness clubs, which average 350sq m, attract more women aged 35-55 and offer a spa area with sauna, hammam and contrast bathing, as well as some gym machines.
The fitness facilities are frequented by 18-30-year-olds, split evenly between men and women. They are around 650sq m with 20-30 per cent of the space dedicated to group classes – around 50 each week.
For 2022, the chain is back to membership numbers of 380,000, after losing 30 per cent during COVID. Nercellas’ short-term goals are to reach a €156m turnover in 2022 and surpass 400,000 members across all sites in 2023.
Read the full interview with José Nercellas in HCM here.
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