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Hedgehog Concept Ltd
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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
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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.

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
HCM people

Ben Lucas

Founder, Flow Athletic, Sydney
We advise our Flow Athletes to complete classes at a ratio of one yoga class to one strength class to one cardio class. This combination has very positive effects
People
HCM people

Aaron Smith

Founder, KX Pilates
‘KX’ stands for ‘the Kaizen Experience’, which means ‘change for the better’ in Japanese. It’s a philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement. We’re always seeking to improve, not only as a company but as individuals
People
Our COVID-19 measures make our clubs significantly safer than any other public space
Features
Staff welfare
Many people will use the gym to release tension and cabin fever, but some may target a tough workout to punish themselves – trained staff should be alert to this and have the confidence to check in with them
Features
Supplier showcase
Bannatyne has driven member engagement with Les Mills during the lockdown
Features
Partner briefing
BMF, the outdoor fitness franchise company co-owned by Bear Grylls, is launching a £1m initiative designed to offer financial support to PTs and exercise professionals in getting back to work after the lockdown
Features
Reopening
David Lloyd Leisure has launched a raft of outdoor classes, including an enhanced role for its Battlebox concept, as Liz Terry reports
Features
Supplier showcase
Working with Precor, Aberdeen Sports Village has undergone a £500k overhaul to strengthen the user experience and put digital connectivity at the core of its offering
Features
feature
As the health and fitness industry gears up for reopening, Caroline Constantine, MD of Right Directions, shares critical guidance about safe operating procedures
Features
Statistics
More than 65,000 people responded to a survey designed to gauge what members want and expect from the sector after lockdown, as Leisure-net’s Dave Monkhouse reports
Features
Latest News
Technogym has announced the launch of live and on-demand classes. The new content will be ...
Latest News
A number of gym operators are concerned that local lockdowns could come into effect in ...
Latest News
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that gyms may be able to reopen in a ...
Latest News
UK consumer confidence has improved significantly since the beginning of the lockdown, with a fifth ...
Latest News
The PGA Tour has recently bought 1,000 Whoop bands for its golfers, after PGA Tour ...
Latest News
ukactive has announced that Active Uprising and the National Summit are going digital as part ...
Latest News
Industry body ukactive has today (1 July) hosted a delegation of government and public health ...
Latest News
Health and fitness company Ingesport – which operates the GO fit chain of gyms in ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: myFitApp launches branded live-streaming as part of its COVID-19 support package
Innovatise, the company behind myFitApp, has announced the immediate availability of its customer- branded live-streaming solution.
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.
Video Gallery
Technogym mywellness app
Technogym
Improve your training experience. All your data in a single app. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Incorpore Limited
Incorpore Ltd is a leading fitness and wellness company which has been successfully delivering solutions ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Technogym
Founded in 1983, Technogym is a world-leading international supplier of technology and design-driven products and ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Fitness equipment
Stages Cycling: Fitness equipment
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Exercise equipment
Technogym: Exercise equipment
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Fitness Software
FunXtion International BV: Fitness Software
Property & Tenders
Greywell, Hampshire
Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
06-07 Jul 2020
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
28-31 Aug 2020
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
01-02 Oct 2020
Whittlebury Hall, Whittlebury, United Kingdom
Diary dates
11-12 Oct 2020
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
27-30 Oct 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
30-31 Oct 2020
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
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.

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
Technogym has announced the launch of live and on-demand classes. The new content will be ...
Latest News
A number of gym operators are concerned that local lockdowns could come into effect in ...
Latest News
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that gyms may be able to reopen in a ...
Latest News
UK consumer confidence has improved significantly since the beginning of the lockdown, with a fifth ...
Latest News
The PGA Tour has recently bought 1,000 Whoop bands for its golfers, after PGA Tour ...
Latest News
ukactive has announced that Active Uprising and the National Summit are going digital as part ...
Latest News
Industry body ukactive has today (1 July) hosted a delegation of government and public health ...
Latest News
Health and fitness company Ingesport – which operates the GO fit chain of gyms in ...
Latest News
Mountainside Fitness in Arizona has filed a lawsuit against state's governor, Doug Ducey, after he ...
Latest News
Physical activity levels in England have continued to fall from those recorded at the initial ...
Latest News
Franchise operator Club Pilates has shown that there is growing confidence in the US fitness ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: myFitApp launches branded live-streaming as part of its COVID-19 support package
Innovatise, the company behind myFitApp, has announced the immediate availability of its customer- branded live-streaming solution.
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.
Video Gallery
Technogym mywellness app
Technogym
Improve your training experience. All your data in a single app. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Incorpore Limited
Incorpore Ltd is a leading fitness and wellness company which has been successfully delivering solutions ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Technogym
Founded in 1983, Technogym is a world-leading international supplier of technology and design-driven products and ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Fitness equipment
Stages Cycling: Fitness equipment
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Exercise equipment
Technogym: Exercise equipment
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Fitness Software
FunXtion International BV: Fitness Software
Property & Tenders
Greywell, Hampshire
Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
06-07 Jul 2020
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
28-31 Aug 2020
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
01-02 Oct 2020
Whittlebury Hall, Whittlebury, United Kingdom
Diary dates
11-12 Oct 2020
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
27-30 Oct 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
30-31 Oct 2020
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
Diary dates
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