Three challenges that are of concern to private members’ clubs in London, UK are: competition from new-breed private members’ clubs and other types of organizations like hotels, maintaining cybersecurity, and the reduced perception of exclusivity due to proliferation of clubs. These challenges and how some of the private members’s clubs are responding/should respond to them, are discussed below:

1. Competition from Other Types of Establishments

  • Legacy clubs are facing increased competition from the new-breed private members’ clubs as well as other types of organizations.
  • The new breed of private members’ clubs, for example, allows a blurring of lines between business/work and pleasure; as well as allowing for more inclusivity in class and gender. The young professionals and entrepreneurs prefer these new private members’ clubs where business and pleasure blend together seamlessly, which may not be a typical offering in traditional private members’ clubs.
  • With the blurring of lines between work and pleasure, hotels and serviced-offices companies are also branching into the private members’ clubs.
  • For example, in 2018, IWG, Plc., the world’s largest serviced office group, “announced that it was renting 40,000 square feet in London’s Battersea Power Station development to launch a private club.”
  • Hotels view the private members’ club segment as a source of (additional) revenue that reduces concerns on “hotel occupancy and rates, and allows for much more predictable staffing and purchasing patterns.” The Curtain in London operates as both a hotel, catering to traditional hotel guests, and as a private members’ club, catering to fee-paying members.
  • Competition from these types of establishments may result in challenges in member retention and maintaining relevance for private members’ clubs.
  • Some of the legacy/traditional private members’ clubs are changing their business models to accommodate the changing times and the rise in competition. “In some cases, established clubs are relaxing their rules, while others, like Marylebone’s Home House, are launching specialized affiliates.”

2. Cybersecurity Concerns

  • Private members’ clubs worldwide are particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks as they often house sensitive data regarding some of the most wealthy and prominent individuals in the world.
  • The instances in which private members’ clubs are at risk of data breaches and cyber threats are on the rise. For example, as with other organizations, private members’ clubs, like the Roehampton Club are increasing their reliance on user-friendly and easy access technology.
  • In addition, with the new practice of providing work spaces for members due to the rise in flexible working methods and access to a remote office, these establishments are vulnerable to phishing and ransomware attacks among many more.
  • Lately, as a consequence of the lock-downs occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, most private members’ clubs have moved to virtual platforms to keep in touch and service their members through such ways as online events, like the online exhibitions by the Chelsea Arts Club, and online film clubs by the House of St Barnabas.
  • Although there are numerous benefits to technological advancements in the running of a private members’ club, these expansions also pose serious threats to the club’s data, which in turn poses a threat to the club’s reputation, services, and members.
  • In order to control or reduce cyber threats and data breaches, private members’ clubs should implement up-to-date cyber security measures and monitor the latest threats and best practices.

3. Erosion of Exclusivity

  • There is a new breed of fashionable private members’ clubs, mainly catering to the younger generation, who want the prestige and exclusivity offered by private clubs, but provided in a more inclusive and diverse experience.
  • In the past decade, “huge rafts of next-generation private members’ clubs have started to take shape around the world.” In London, this could be as much as 20-30 new clubs since 2015.
  • By definition, private members’ clubs exist to cater for social and professional elites, and thus thrive on a sense of exclusivity.
  • With the rising number of new private members’ clubs, social commentators warn that “oversupply has ruined their magic” as “their exclusivity is becoming diluted,” by becoming too mainstream. These clubs, further, “struggle to attract the celebrities that once lent them cachet,” as they are no longer the places once favored by the famous and artistic.
  • As more of the new breed of fashionable private members’ clubs and spaces come into play, the thrill of being a member is dissipating.
  • For example, Soho House is seen to have diluted its brand due to its rapid expansion in the UK and internationally.
  • Some of the private members’ clubs, especially the legacy clubs, are maintaining their exclusivity through such methods as (high) membership fees, which are not affordable to many; as well as club bans on certain practices such as restrictions on using the clubs for the purposes of any trade, profession or business. In this way, only select people are motivated to become members.

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