GET HCM
magazine
Sign up for the FREE digital edition of HCM magazine and also get the HCM ezine and breaking news email alerts.
Not right now, thanksclose this window
Core Health & Fitness
Core Health & Fitness
Core Health & Fitness
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

Follow Health Club Management on Twitter Like Health Club Management on Facebook Join the discussion with Health Club Management on LinkedIn Follow Health Club Management on Instagram
UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Get the latest news, jobs and features in your inbox
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

FIBO China: A Chinese Puzzle

Jak Phillips went to FIBO China and filed this report

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 9
Jak Phillips
Jak Phillips
The online to offline model – where businesses build an audience through a slick digital presence and then channel them towards physical sites – is highly popular in China and made possible by the ubiquity of WeChat

Stormy seas make for great sailors.” This was the prescient theme of the presentation from my fellow speaker Christian Mason – MD of Virgin Active South East Asia – at the Fit Business Live event held at FIBO China in Shanghai last month.

The eloquent Australian was discussing the story of how Virgin Active quickly became a dominant player in the Singapore and Thailand markets from a standing start, but he could equally have been referring to the unlikely situation currently unfolding in the Chinese gym market.

As anyone who’s been to China will attest, the country is full of surprises. And two of the preconceptions I arrived with were well and truly scotched during the course of my week-long trip.

I’ll start with the good news. For all the headlines warning of smog, pollution and wastage, China (or Shanghai at least) is in the midst of an ecological epiphany. The country of red is determined to go green, with recycling bins now dominating every house, hotel and office, while legions of neighbourhood champions are being paid to ensure people play by the rules and diligently sort their rubbish. Single-use plastics are also off the menu as China seeks to cut down on waste and repair the impact that exponential growth has had on its environment.

Winter is coming
The bad news – perhaps more relevant for this audience – is that all is not rosy in the Chinese gym market. Contrary to popular perceptions of endless double-digit growth, driven by a burgeoning middle class, the fitness industry has indeed hit stormy seas and is in the midst of a major slowdown. Aggressive overexpansion has led to a number of club chains going bust in recent months, while the fiscal headwinds slowing the wider economy have meant clubs are being starved of outside investment.

Reliable data is difficult to come by, but many of the operators in attendance at FIBO China were of the poetic view that “Spring has been, and winter is coming”, with suppliers also feeling the resultant pinch.

In some ways, the Chinese club market is following the path of the global fitness industry, but in others, it’s delightfully divergent. One of the main topics at the Fit Business Live event – hosted by Les Mills – was the need for clubs to shift from a sales-driven to service-driven approach in order to add value to members and shore up sky-high attrition rates: a topic familiar to many readers, I’m sure.

Conversely, another hot topic was the exciting opportunities afforded by the high-tech, low-touch business model being deployed to devastating effect by one of the rising stars of the Chinese club market: Super Monkey.

Set to reach 200 sites by the end of 2019, Super Monkey is a low-cost boutique, offering a mix of own-brand and Les Mills workouts. Users book classes via their phone (neatly, they can also book their friends in) and receive a passcode 10 minutes before the class, which they use to access the studio. The lack of staffing and the low square footage required (a small curtained-off area to change in is the only amenity other than the studio) means Super Monkey studios can open virtually anywhere. And they’ve been doing exactly that.

Tech savvy
The online to offline business model – whereby businesses build an audience through a slick digital presence and then channel them towards physical sites – is highly popular in China and made possible by the ubiquity of WeChat.

Whether it’s speaking to friends, paying for a meal or applying for a loan, virtually all business in China is conducted via this app (which makes extensive use of QR codes), with the resultant integrated experience opening up a world of marketing opportunities for digitally-savvy clubs like Super Monkey to own the entire customer journey and a wealth of data.

Given the need for enhanced member experience and the boom in innovative boutiques, group fitness was another hot topic at the event, with its impact on retention and ability to offer quality and consistency to fast-scaling businesses held up as a key factor in its prominence across all segments of the Chinese club market.

Elsewhere at the FIBO show, you continued to encounter a curious blend of the fresh and familiar. Aside from the usual mega-stands from all the big equipment suppliers (I always spare a thought for the poor presenters who have to work-out for the entire day and pretend they’re enjoying it) there were some interesting activation experiences, with Reebok-sponsored functional fitness competitions deftly blending the spectacle of an event with clothing retail opportunities.

Looking ahead
That said, there was also the unedifying sight of men and women in Speedos and oodles of fake tan competing in bodybuilding contests, surrounded by supplement stands where muscle-bound men flex their biceps on beat to German techno. Ours is a vital and professional industry, that’s come a long way since the 80s. So why do we continue to give a platform at our events to a niche sub-culture that for so long has brought mockery on us, scared people away from gyms and marred us with accusations of steroids and supplement abuse? I’ve got nothing against the sport of bodybuilding, but aren’t we’re shooting ourselves in the foot by continuing to willingly associate it with the modern physical activity sector?

Anyway, rant over. Aside from the trade show, FIBO China had a series of star speakers adding sparkle to the education stream on the Friday, including Rene Moos, Jonathan Fisher and Herman Rutgers. I had to leave by then, so I can’t recount what was said, but I’m sure most readers will be familiar with their work and wisdom already. Suffice to say, the calibre of industry professional FIBO China is able to attract is testament to the growing importance of the Chinese gym market. Stormy seas may currently be rocking the boat, but surely its long-term course is set fair to become the next fitness superpower.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Group exercise classes and bodybuilding demonstrations entertained the crowds at FIBO China
Group exercise classes and bodybuilding demonstrations entertained the crowds at FIBO China
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/141972_362210.jpg
HCM's Jak Philips reports on the most recent FIBO from China and covers the importance and popularity of the online to offline business model in China for the fitness industry as well as explaining why he believes the Chinese gym market is 'on a major slowdown'.
Jak Phillips, FIBO, China, fitness,Jak Phillips, FIBO, China, fitness
People
Catch-up is already happening. We’re up to 80% of the visits compared to the same day in 2019 and membership sales are up 150-200%
People
HCM people

Dan Bond

Owner, CrossFit Fort Ashton
We’d explained leading up to the lockdown that if everyone decided to freeze or cancel, then there would be a possibility of not having a gym to come back to
People
HCM people

Debra Wein

founder and CEO, Wellness Workdays
I’ve always felt that if individuals had more education and understanding of nutrition and healthy lifestyle principles, we could literally change lives
Features
FIBO Awards
Although the show has been rescheduled, the six winners of the FIBO Innovation and Trend Awards 2020 have still been announced. We take a look at the companies whose developments help motivate people to live healthier lives
Features
Sponsored briefing
Active IQ has partnered with leading experts at Nuffield Health who, alongside its chief medical advisor, Dr Dane Vishnubala, have created a new Level 3 Diploma in Working with People with Long-term Conditions
Features
Insight
As some of the UK’s top gym operators unveil their reopening videos, insight specialists, Paul Roberts and Mike Evans, analyse members’ reactions on social media
Features
Accessibility
Sport England has teamed up with 15 health and social care charities to find ways to support people living with 10 different health conditions to be physically active. Kath Hudson finds out more
Features
Statistics
IHRSA’s Kristen Walsh gets a briefing from Blair McHaney on how operators can use gym member insight to inform reopening decisions and practices
Features
US stats
New research from the US shows Millennials and Gen Z may be slow to return to gyms, while women are more hesitant than men. Club Intel’s Steve Tharrett reports
Features
Finance
Change is coming, with consolidation likely in the market – especially in the boutique sector. Nadim Meer advises operators how to position themselves for investment
Features
Latest News
Boutique operator Digme Fitness will open two new studios in London over the next two ...
Latest News
A government investment of £1.75bn – to pay 50 per cent of rents across the ...
Latest News
Health clubs and gyms in Catalonia have reopened their doors once for a second time, ...
Latest News
Health clubs, gyms, indoor pools and leisure centres have reopened in Wales – nearly five ...
Latest News
Today (10 August) is the last day for companies to enter the follow-up survey to ...
Latest News
A significant proportion of leisure facilities in England have not reopened since lockdown measures were ...
Latest News
Industry body, ukactive, has questioned the decision to close gyms and health clubs as part ...
Latest News
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid a surprise visit to a branch of The Gym ...
Opinion
promotion
Evidence suggests that over many years personal trainers have been forced to leave the fitness industry because employment patterns are erratic, earnings are inconsistent and it is difficult to build up value needed to secure an appropriate lifestyle.
Opinion: Personal trainers need support as employment opportunities diminish: FREE on-demand webinar
Opinion
promotion
Data-driven businesses are some of today’s greatest global success stories, providing blueprints for success.
Opinion: Up your ‘data game’ to successfully relaunch your fitness business
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Let's get restarted: Physical Company offers advice on keeping gym members safe
As countries around the world gear up to relax their lockdown rules, there remains a question mark over gyms and studios, which in many markets will be one of the last sectors to be given the green light.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Dormy House enhances premium facilities with fully connected fitness suite
Dormy House, a luxurious boutique hotel and spa in the heart of the Cotswolds, has expanded its premium offer with the refurbishment of its two fitness suites, incorporating the latest, fully connected gym equipment from Matrix Fitness.
Video Gallery
Resolute™ Strength
Precor
Resolute™ Strength - New Selectorized Strength Line From Precor Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Precor
For more than 35 years, Precor has driven fitness forward. We continue that heritage every ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Core Health & Fitness
Core Health & Fitness is more than gym equipment, we offer innovative solutions for all ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Fitness equipment
TRX Training: Fitness equipment
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Exercise equipment
Technogym: Exercise equipment
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Software
Volution.fit: Software
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Lockers/interior design
Fitlockers: Lockers/interior design
Property & Tenders
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
Diary dates
03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates

features

FIBO China: A Chinese Puzzle

Jak Phillips went to FIBO China and filed this report

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 9
Jak Phillips
Jak Phillips
The online to offline model – where businesses build an audience through a slick digital presence and then channel them towards physical sites – is highly popular in China and made possible by the ubiquity of WeChat

Stormy seas make for great sailors.” This was the prescient theme of the presentation from my fellow speaker Christian Mason – MD of Virgin Active South East Asia – at the Fit Business Live event held at FIBO China in Shanghai last month.

The eloquent Australian was discussing the story of how Virgin Active quickly became a dominant player in the Singapore and Thailand markets from a standing start, but he could equally have been referring to the unlikely situation currently unfolding in the Chinese gym market.

As anyone who’s been to China will attest, the country is full of surprises. And two of the preconceptions I arrived with were well and truly scotched during the course of my week-long trip.

I’ll start with the good news. For all the headlines warning of smog, pollution and wastage, China (or Shanghai at least) is in the midst of an ecological epiphany. The country of red is determined to go green, with recycling bins now dominating every house, hotel and office, while legions of neighbourhood champions are being paid to ensure people play by the rules and diligently sort their rubbish. Single-use plastics are also off the menu as China seeks to cut down on waste and repair the impact that exponential growth has had on its environment.

Winter is coming
The bad news – perhaps more relevant for this audience – is that all is not rosy in the Chinese gym market. Contrary to popular perceptions of endless double-digit growth, driven by a burgeoning middle class, the fitness industry has indeed hit stormy seas and is in the midst of a major slowdown. Aggressive overexpansion has led to a number of club chains going bust in recent months, while the fiscal headwinds slowing the wider economy have meant clubs are being starved of outside investment.

Reliable data is difficult to come by, but many of the operators in attendance at FIBO China were of the poetic view that “Spring has been, and winter is coming”, with suppliers also feeling the resultant pinch.

In some ways, the Chinese club market is following the path of the global fitness industry, but in others, it’s delightfully divergent. One of the main topics at the Fit Business Live event – hosted by Les Mills – was the need for clubs to shift from a sales-driven to service-driven approach in order to add value to members and shore up sky-high attrition rates: a topic familiar to many readers, I’m sure.

Conversely, another hot topic was the exciting opportunities afforded by the high-tech, low-touch business model being deployed to devastating effect by one of the rising stars of the Chinese club market: Super Monkey.

Set to reach 200 sites by the end of 2019, Super Monkey is a low-cost boutique, offering a mix of own-brand and Les Mills workouts. Users book classes via their phone (neatly, they can also book their friends in) and receive a passcode 10 minutes before the class, which they use to access the studio. The lack of staffing and the low square footage required (a small curtained-off area to change in is the only amenity other than the studio) means Super Monkey studios can open virtually anywhere. And they’ve been doing exactly that.

Tech savvy
The online to offline business model – whereby businesses build an audience through a slick digital presence and then channel them towards physical sites – is highly popular in China and made possible by the ubiquity of WeChat.

Whether it’s speaking to friends, paying for a meal or applying for a loan, virtually all business in China is conducted via this app (which makes extensive use of QR codes), with the resultant integrated experience opening up a world of marketing opportunities for digitally-savvy clubs like Super Monkey to own the entire customer journey and a wealth of data.

Given the need for enhanced member experience and the boom in innovative boutiques, group fitness was another hot topic at the event, with its impact on retention and ability to offer quality and consistency to fast-scaling businesses held up as a key factor in its prominence across all segments of the Chinese club market.

Elsewhere at the FIBO show, you continued to encounter a curious blend of the fresh and familiar. Aside from the usual mega-stands from all the big equipment suppliers (I always spare a thought for the poor presenters who have to work-out for the entire day and pretend they’re enjoying it) there were some interesting activation experiences, with Reebok-sponsored functional fitness competitions deftly blending the spectacle of an event with clothing retail opportunities.

Looking ahead
That said, there was also the unedifying sight of men and women in Speedos and oodles of fake tan competing in bodybuilding contests, surrounded by supplement stands where muscle-bound men flex their biceps on beat to German techno. Ours is a vital and professional industry, that’s come a long way since the 80s. So why do we continue to give a platform at our events to a niche sub-culture that for so long has brought mockery on us, scared people away from gyms and marred us with accusations of steroids and supplement abuse? I’ve got nothing against the sport of bodybuilding, but aren’t we’re shooting ourselves in the foot by continuing to willingly associate it with the modern physical activity sector?

Anyway, rant over. Aside from the trade show, FIBO China had a series of star speakers adding sparkle to the education stream on the Friday, including Rene Moos, Jonathan Fisher and Herman Rutgers. I had to leave by then, so I can’t recount what was said, but I’m sure most readers will be familiar with their work and wisdom already. Suffice to say, the calibre of industry professional FIBO China is able to attract is testament to the growing importance of the Chinese gym market. Stormy seas may currently be rocking the boat, but surely its long-term course is set fair to become the next fitness superpower.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Group exercise classes and bodybuilding demonstrations entertained the crowds at FIBO China
Group exercise classes and bodybuilding demonstrations entertained the crowds at FIBO China
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/141972_362210.jpg
HCM's Jak Philips reports on the most recent FIBO from China and covers the importance and popularity of the online to offline business model in China for the fitness industry as well as explaining why he believes the Chinese gym market is 'on a major slowdown'.
Jak Phillips, FIBO, China, fitness,Jak Phillips, FIBO, China, fitness
Latest News
Boutique operator Digme Fitness will open two new studios in London over the next two ...
Latest News
A government investment of £1.75bn – to pay 50 per cent of rents across the ...
Latest News
Health clubs and gyms in Catalonia have reopened their doors once for a second time, ...
Latest News
Health clubs, gyms, indoor pools and leisure centres have reopened in Wales – nearly five ...
Latest News
Today (10 August) is the last day for companies to enter the follow-up survey to ...
Latest News
A significant proportion of leisure facilities in England have not reopened since lockdown measures were ...
Latest News
Industry body, ukactive, has questioned the decision to close gyms and health clubs as part ...
Latest News
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid a surprise visit to a branch of The Gym ...
Latest News
Planet Fitness' share price on the New York Stock Exchange has remained steady at between ...
Latest News
Two of the largest health club operators in the US have announced that members and ...
Latest News
If you're a personal trainer working in the UK, you can now get online PT ...
Opinion
promotion
Evidence suggests that over many years personal trainers have been forced to leave the fitness industry because employment patterns are erratic, earnings are inconsistent and it is difficult to build up value needed to secure an appropriate lifestyle.
Opinion: Personal trainers need support as employment opportunities diminish: FREE on-demand webinar
Opinion
promotion
Data-driven businesses are some of today’s greatest global success stories, providing blueprints for success.
Opinion: Up your ‘data game’ to successfully relaunch your fitness business
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Let's get restarted: Physical Company offers advice on keeping gym members safe
As countries around the world gear up to relax their lockdown rules, there remains a question mark over gyms and studios, which in many markets will be one of the last sectors to be given the green light.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Dormy House enhances premium facilities with fully connected fitness suite
Dormy House, a luxurious boutique hotel and spa in the heart of the Cotswolds, has expanded its premium offer with the refurbishment of its two fitness suites, incorporating the latest, fully connected gym equipment from Matrix Fitness.
Video Gallery
Resolute™ Strength
Precor
Resolute™ Strength - New Selectorized Strength Line From Precor Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Precor
For more than 35 years, Precor has driven fitness forward. We continue that heritage every ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Core Health & Fitness
Core Health & Fitness is more than gym equipment, we offer innovative solutions for all ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Fitness equipment
TRX Training: Fitness equipment
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Exercise equipment
Technogym: Exercise equipment
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Software
Volution.fit: Software
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Lockers/interior design
Fitlockers: Lockers/interior design
Property & Tenders
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
Diary dates
03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
Search news, features & products:
Find a supplier:
Core Health & Fitness
Core Health & Fitness