Pete Murray answers 5 Questions

Pete Murray is the new National Site Acquisition Manager for Virgin Active SA, who is responsible for the roll-out of new clubs across South Africa.

Congratulations on your recent promotion! What is your new role and what does it entail?

Thank you very much. I was previously the Coastal Site Acquisition Manager responsible for the roll-out of new clubs across the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal. My new position now covers the balance of the country too.

The role involves actively sourcing, analysing and securing qualified sites which match the company’s strategic planning and growth objectives. This encompasses negotiating competitive and commercially viable lease terms with Landlords and Developers, as well as building and maintaining a suitable market intelligence structure of town planning initiatives and developments.


Virgin Active SA is South Africa’s leading health club group, which brings with it a lot of volume. What are the challenges in terms of the availability of sufficient water and electricity and what are the future focused measures that virgin active sa is putting in place to ensure the responsible use and sustainability of these resources?

The risk of inconsistent water and electricity supply is something we are challenged with regularly.

Exercise and training requires water, not only potable water for drinking, but also the shower and toilet facilities. Using as little water as responsibly possible, we have implemented numerous measures to reuse and limit water supply, especially in the Western Cape.

Ensuring service continuity at our 30 clubs in the province has been a big challenge and required significant investment. Through operational efficiencies and infrastructure changes, we have been able to reduce our water consumption as much as 73% for April 2018 since the baseline figure in 2015.

The sensation showers as well as the steam and sauna rooms have been temporarily closed in the Western Cape. Boreholes have been dug where possible and low flow aerated shower heads and taps have been installed together with shower push buttons. Grey water reticulation and pool backwash is used for the ablutions. We remain vigilant to harvest as much as possible from the natural environment, having installed rainwater tanks in several clubs across the province.

We have even gone as far to collect condensation from the air conditioning systems. What is happening in the Western Cape has made us more conservative across the country. We cannot get away from water consumption in our clubs, but we can act as responsibly as possible.

Similarly, with electricity, we continue to drive energy savings and act responsibly. We have installed 100% heat recovery chiller from our HVAC systems which heats our clubs hot water, set points on our HVAC system and are trailing thermal paint for roofs. We use energy efficient lighting with motion sensors and time clocks and C02 sensors for energy saving in low occupancy periods. Several of our clubs also have back-up generators.

By 2030, we have challenged ourselves to a net zero environmental impact. Its an ambitious goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions, net zero water waste, zero waste to landfill, green and efficient facilities and buildings, and finally 100% renewable energy.


With Virgin Active SA moving more and more into the retail space, often as a big box in a shopping centre, how has the retail landscape changed since you have been at the forefront of site acquisitions and how do you see the role of Virgin Active SA in this sector going forward?

Consumers are becoming more astute, expecting convenience and a seamless retail experience. That means easy access, parking, and egress from the centre. If a consumer can, they would opt for a one-stop shop, allowing them the opportunity to workout and do essential shopping at the same time.

Our role is to provide a service to members, and a gym is a destination for people. If we can make it convenient for members to run all other errands in the same location as their health club, then the whole experience becomes that much more enjoyable and efficient.

Not only do we enhance member experience by placing clubs in convenient locations, we also generate unique value to retail centres by increasing shopper interest and creating an upmarket perception for the development.

You spent several years as a successful broker, where great negotiation skills are vital. What are three of your fundamental negotiation principles?

Everyone has a different approach to negotiations, but what I have found most successful are the following:

  1. Listen with intent – really hear and take interest in what the other party is saying.

  2. Be tactful, assess the situation and apply your understanding of different personalities.

  3. Be willing to compromise as it’s likely that you won’t get everything you want.

What would your advice be to young people who are considering a career in real estate, with a particular view on deal making?

I started out as a broker, which gave me a great understanding of the market. It’s a steep learning curve that offers you exposure to multiple facets of property and negotiation, but it is a very good place to start.

Key relationships are critical and must be nurtured, not just when you want something. Be patient, property isn’t a quick fix, but with competent negotiating skills and strategic thinking, the rewards are worth it.


Copyright © 2018 by Natalie du Preez.

This interview was conceptualised, conducted and authored by Natalie du Preez and is original content, which is property of the author, all rights reserved. This article or any portion thereof may not be copied, shared or reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the owner.

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