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Skelly hits back in gym war as prices trimmed

SHE was Ben Dunne's prime target in the "war of the gyms" and burly Ben won the first round when Jackie Skelly's gyms went into examinership.

But now the feisty fitness guru is back for the second round and she plans to beat her former rival at his own game -- by undercutting him in her new fitness clinics.

"At €19 per month it's going to be hard for anyone to beat," says Skelly, who spent 17 years building up her original chain of gyms.

"Our new model is head and shoulders above the rest because all the fat is gone, we're keeping our costs low and all the benefits of that will be completely passed on to our members."

The company FLYEfit is the first low-cost self-service supergym where the member is in control of their own account. They can join, pause, and cancel their membership online. And they can come and go as they please without the restrictions of a contract.

As Jackie explained: "We have free classes and state-of- the-art studios and equipment. Our gyms will be in great locations and they won't be like warehouses with lots of equipment. There will be a good social atmosphere."

Speaking about the closure of her first business two years ago, she said: "It was a heartbreaking time. My business partner Mark and I had built up 25,000 members, we were doing extremely well and because of high rents and high overheads things took a turn and we had to walk away."

She continued: "It wasn't a life or death situation, I've had cancer before and I got through that but I would be lying if I said I didn't feel completely devastated.

I lived and breathed that business for years, it was how I expressed myself and it was almost like going into enforced retirement. It was awful. We weren't living the high life with lots of houses and two or three cars, we were simply working very hard so we could retire early, but unfortunately we didn't get to that point.

Speaking about her business rival Ben Dunne she said: "Each to their own. There's a niche for everyone and Ben has found his. He has done a lot for the industry and I think it's admirable he came up with the budget model."

Speaking this weekend, Ben Dunne reacted to the news that his rival was re-entering the fitness industry, saying: "I wish her every success but I won't be losing any sleep over her getting back into the business. She needs to get her pencil sharpener out and do her figures again. We're offering memberships for as little as €125 per year. So Ben Dunne gyms still lead the way."

The first of the FLYEfit supergyms is due to open in Ranelagh, Dublin, this September and membership is already open.

Sunday Independent