The sports and gym company DW Sports has gone into administration, putting 1,700 jobs at risk.
The group, which was founded by the former Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan, operates 73 gyms and 75 retail stores across the UK. The company, which said its e-commerce website would cease trading immediately, announced plans to shut 25 of its stores last month as the coronavirus lockdown wiped out its income.
DW Sports said the remaining 50 retail outlets would continue to trade and would start closing-down sales from Monday.
“As a consequence of Covid-19, we found ourselves in a position where we were mandated by government to close down both our retail store portfolio and our gym chain in its entirety for a protracted period, leaving us with a high fixed-cost base and zero income,” said the DW Sports group chief executive, Martin Long.
“Like many other retail businesses, the consequences of this extremely challenging operating market have created inevitable profitability issues for DW Sports.”
The company said that Fitness First, which it also owns and has 43 clubs across the UK, is a separate company and is unaffected.
DW Sports said it intended to support employees, customers and gym members “as far as possible while efforts are made to secure a purchaser for some or all of the DW Sports portfolio”.
“Having exhausted all other available options for the business, we firmly believe that this process can be a platform to restructure the business and preserve many of our gyms for our members, and also protect the maximum number of jobs possible for our team members,” said Long.
The company said it was “inevitable” that some gyms would close. So far 59 have reopened in England and Northern Ireland. Fourteen sites in England, Scotland and Wales are unable to reopen because of government restrictions.
“The decision to appoint administrators has not been taken lightly but will give us the best chance to protect viable parts of the business, return them to profitability and secure as many jobs as possible,” said Long. “It is a difficult model for any business to manage through without long-term damage, and with the limited support which we have been able to gain.”