Dozens of jobs set to be lost after DW Sports collapse triggers closure of retail stores and gyms

The DW Sports store on Belfast's Donegall Place. Picture By Hugh Russell.
Ryan McAleer

DOZENS more jobs are set to be lost in the north after DW Sports collapsed into administration on Monday, announcing the winding down of its retail business and some of its gyms.

The sports and fitness group operates seven retail stores in Belfast, Derry, Coleraine, Ballymena and Bangor. It also operates five gyms, which reopened on July 10.

The company has said that 43 of its Fitness First gyms across the UK will remain open as a separate company, including just two in Northern Ireland in Bangor and Shawsbridge.

The remaining 30 gyms in the group are set to close.

Staff and members at the Boucher Road gym in Belfast have been informed that it will close from 8pm on Tuesday.

All five gyms in the north were removed from the company’s website on Monday afternoon.

In a notice to staff confirming the appointment of administrators from BDO to DW Sports, the company said: “It is our intention to work with the administrators to ensure a number of our gyms remain operational in the long term, however we regret to inform you that your gym will close for business and will cease trading at 8pm on Tuesday 4th August.”

DW Sports was founded by Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan. A total of 1,700 people are employed across its 73 gyms and 75 stores.

Last month said it would shut 25 of its UK stores. The company’s Boucher Road store in Belfast, had already launched closing down sales.

But yesterday the group said it will now wind down its retail business for good, with closing-down sales starting at its 50 remaining stores.

Aodhán Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said it was yet another sign of the pressures retailers are under amidst the Covid-10 crisis.

“Rising costs and falling footfall and consumer spend has meant that we have seen big names stumble and tumble. That's why we need continued support from the Northern Ireland Executive and most of all from the public.”

DW Sport’s chief executive Martin Long yesterday said the forced closure of its retail store portfolio and gym chain for a protracted period left the business with a high fixed-cost base and zero income.

"Like many other retail businesses, the consequences of this extremely challenging operating market have created inevitable profitability issues for DW Sports.

"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.

"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.

"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."

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