GoodLife Fitness is interested in some of the spaces that will be vacated by Target Canada, as it seeks to grow the number of clubs to 400 nationally by the end of this year.
“We are on a fairly aggressive growth plan and this is a great opportunity for us to accelerate our growth plan,” said Jane Riddell, GoodLife Fitness chief operating officer.
The Canadian fitness chain currently operates 328 clubs, which it hopes to grow to 350 by spring. Last year it launched the Fit4Less by GoodLife club concept, which offers memberships for $10 monthly.
Target announced last week that it is pulling the plug on Canadian operations, closing all 133 stores and putting 17,600 people out of work. Target Canada has filed for creditor protection as it winds down operations.
Liquidation sales are set to start in two or three weeks. The shut down is expected to be completed within four to five months.
The company lost $7-billion in its first international foray.
A spokesperson for GoodLife competitor Planet Fitness said yesterday it is also interested in the real estate opportunities that will be opening up. The U.S. chain opened its first location in Toronto at the Galleria Mall at Dufferin St. and Dupont St. a few weeks ago.
A second corporate location is scheduled to open in Brampton in the next several weeks. The brand has also received requests from more than 10 franchise groups interested in opening 200 locations coast to coast, according to spokesperson McCall Gosselin.
“We would absolutely look at empty Target locations to determine whether any fit our specific needs,” said Gosselin.
Retail real estate expert John Crombie said gyms may face obstacles when it comes to opening within former Target locations. Even the largest gyms are significantly smaller than a typical Target store, which would mean dividing up the space. Some landlords may also have restrictions on what kind of business can operate in the space.
“Some of it may spark site redevelopment,” said Crombie, vice-president of Triovest Realty Advisors.
Still, both Planet Fitness and GoodLife have taken over Zellers locations in the past. In 1999, GoodLife acquired 12 former Eaton’s stores.
“You have to be creative and that is going to be the name of the game in the next three or four years,” said Don Gregor, Aurora Realty Consultants’ chief operating officer.
Another strong contender for the Target sites is Lowe’s Companies Canada, which is seeking to open 25 new stores over the next three years.
Riddell said GoodLife is looking for locations in high-visibility areas with lots of parking; stores in beautiful locations and well built.
“One of the things we do really well is, we’re really creative and innovative when it comes to renovating existing space. We can be very flexible in what works for us,” said Riddell.
She did not specify how many spaces they are looking at.
GoodLife clubs are typically 24,000 square feet, but some are as large as 60,000 and even 80,000 square feet, said Riddell. Fit4Less clubs are typically between 8,000 and 12,000 square feet.
The average Target store is in the 130,000-square-foot range.
The announcement on Tuesday is part of the company’s plan to grow to 1,000 clubs across Canada over the longer term.
GoodLife Fitness is also welcoming applications from Target employees and will prioritize meetings with candidates where possible.