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Leisure Management - Pulse

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Pulse is one of the most versatile organisations in the fitness industry. We discuss how the British based company offers so much more than just kit

Pulse founders Chris and Dave Johnson lead innovation at their UK-based headquarters
The Cirrus Console gives access to digital TV, the internet, workouts and fitness data
Pulse presents its partners with business plans to facilitate their future growth
Pulse presents its partners with business plans to facilitate their future growth
Pulse presents its partners with business plans to facilitate their future growth
The acquisition of the Trixter brand has further enhanced Pulse’s connections globally

Pulse is one of the most versatile organisations in the fitness industry, comprising four divisions – Pulse Fitness,Pulse Select, Pulse Soccer and Club Pulse. The British-based company is best known for its world class Pulse Fitness equipment, but the company offers so much more than just kit.

In addition to developing, supplying and servicing equipment, Pulse designs and builds centres within its Pulse Select division. The organisation also operates entire leisure venues within its Club Pulse branch and helps other facilities operate more efficiently by looking after direct debits, sales and marketing, training and IT support systems.

Within its Pulse Soccer arm, Pulse provides a sustainable franchise platform for grassroots soccer facilities. The organisation also acts as a strategic leisure development consultant to a number of local authorities and partners, advising them on how to exceed objectives, be sustainable, drive revenue and increase participation.

Pulse’s unique mix of services – coupled with the fact that it has all that experience in-house at its UK HQ in Congleton – puts the company ahead of the game. With such strong foundations in place, Pulse is looking at how technology and innovative business models can continue to grow the sector, participation and revenue. Managing Director Chris Johnson tells us more...

Do you think your experience with design-and-build and in operating fitness facilities gives you an industry advantage?
Absolutely! We’ve worked with a diverse array of sites across a range of market sectors, from private health clubs to educational institutions and not-for-profit facilities. As such we’ve learnt a great deal about best practice, member motivation and commerciality.

Our experience of managing facilities has given us a unique insight into what customers want: motivation, feedback and results. From an operator’s perspective, we’ve learnt about the importance of durability and the role of small details such as layout, lighting, colour schemes and artwork in enhancing the member experience.

We also really understand the importance of seeing a return on investment and are able to demonstrate ROI through our own clubs such as Pulse Health and Fitness in Carshalton, where the four-and-a half-year-old equipment is currently exceeding latent demand by 25 per cent.

Our operational clubs are key to the R&D process of our products as we get constant, honest, first-hand feedback from members and staff which we communicate with our British based design team. In turn, managing entire facilities has helped us to develop inspiring and effective sales and marketing strategies.

We use our experience of operating leisure venues – along with our extensive knowledge of the latest trends – to present our partners with business plans to facilitate their growth and help them achieve their objectives. This could be anything from converting an under-performing squash court into a more fruitful functional training zone or providing an innovative sales and marketing package to drive new customers into a facility. We have a proven track record delivering such services, with 75 per cent of our customer base working with us for over 10 years.

Tell us more about the new innovations you have just brought to market.
As our name suggests, we aim to keep our finger on the ‘pulse’! Our British- based in-house design team work constantly to update and improve our existing products and develop exciting new innovations. 2014 was no exception.

Just to name a few, we released our free iOS- and Android-compatible mobile fitness tracking app as an enhanced communication tool for UK operators, and to make tracking in-gym and external activity easier for consumers.

We unveiled our touchscreen Cirrus Console and took our SmartCentre gym management system to the cloud at smartcentre.com. The online solution, which is free to SmartCentre clients, allows members to view, access, track and update their fitness data anytime, anywhere, and is designed to provide operators with an additional tool to keep members engaged and motivated.

Technology is at the heart of your new offerings, is this something you hope will become synonymous with Pulse?
With more consumers becoming increasingly tech-savvy and using wearable devices, our goal is to help operators utilise such technologies and other cloud-based systems to motivate customers, improve engagement and ultimately aid retention. We strive to be at the forefront of fitness technology and become market leaders in this field.

Our portfolio of products has been engineered over 34 years and as such are well tried and tested with the best components and materials. In more recent years we’ve focused on developing the technology found in our kit so it matches the prestige of the equipment and exceeds the growing expectations of consumers.

For example, our state-of-the-art Cirrus Console encompasses technology that allows gym users to access digital TV, radio and bespoke workout programmes, as well as enjoy full internet browsing with social media access while they workout. The functionality of such technologies is uniform across our entire product range so customers of all ages and abilities become familiar with the devices and can enjoy using them.

Technology doesn’t stop with our equipment. We incorporate it into many other aspects of our business as well such as our service and maintenance arm, front of house management systems, CRM member management systems and sales and marketing initiatives through email campaigns, interactive websites and our mobile app.

What difference has the Trixter acquisition made to Pulse? Acquiring Trixter was part of our aim to become the leading innovator of technologically advanced fitness equipment. Trixter is a well-known brand with great credibility and the partnership has given us a new perspective on customer engagement, as well as the role of interactive innovation in inspiring consumers.

The partnership has brought a vast array of opportunities for Pulse. We’ve recently been named exclusive distributor of Keiser products to the Education, MoD and Local Authority sectors and have exclusive distribution of the world-leading M3x Indoor Cycle, a product merger between Keiser’s award winning M3 Indoor Fitness Cycle and Trixter’s popular patented X-bars. In turn, we’ve been able to tap into Trixter’s strong connections in the UK and globally which has helped enhance Pulse’s contacts yet further.

From an operational point of view, the bikes have been very popular among our members. Even more importantly perhaps, the technologically advanced kit has helped bring our customers closer together and created a sense of community across our sites by encouraging competition among members, and between facilities as well.

You are one of the only companies to design equipment in the UK. Is this important?
We’re proud to say that we are one of very few companies to design fitness equipment here in the UK.

Being British-based is important to us as it allows our clients – or potential clients – to visit our head office, meet our in-house product design team, trial the products and even work closely with them to modify pieces of equipment to suit their needs.

We’ve done this with the MoD in recent years, adapting several pieces of kit to make them more suitable for the fitness needs of the armed forces. The MoD and the RAF like the fact that we’re a British company supporting British troops.

In addition, the feedback that we receive shows that fitness facilities overseas like the fact that we’re British-based as our standards are high and reputation is strong.

What does the future hold for Pulse?
We have clear goals within each of the four strands of our business and are expecting to see significant growth right across the board.

We will keep working with our existing partners to further develop their health, fitness and leisure solutions in order to grow participation and profitability to ensure they continue to see a ROI.

We’ve got lots of exciting, flagship design-and-build projects in the pipeline of our Pulse Select division. Going forward we will continue to seek out more partners for Club Pulse and Pulse Select by demonstrating that even a minimal investment – whether that be in kit, graphical artwork, a new gym layout or operational support services – can really result in significant savings in the long term.

We will continue to develop our Pulse Fitness arm by updating products with new features based on extensive market research, customer feedback and changing criteria.

We’re also aiming to become the leading innovator of technologically advanced fitness equipment and will also invest in new personnel to aid our growth in this field.

We’d like to develop our partnership with Keiser, as well as seeking out other innovative equipment providers so we can offer customers even more complete gym packages.

Finally, with our export business showing good growth, we’re also looking into ways of offering additional support to customers overseas.

Originally published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 1
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