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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.

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
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/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

Dr Darshan Shah

Next Health: co-founder
Our vision is that health is not the absence of disease but the abundance of vitality
People
HCM people

Keith Burnet

CEO global markets, Les Mills
I wanted to do something to inspire others and encourage them to believe that no matter what age you are, anything is possible
People
As a society, we all need to make a conscious effort to be more active and our industry is in the best position to help people do that
Features
feature
We’re identifying and upselling customers who would benefit from a direct gym membership, so we can help the sector grow again
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feature
The owner of Nisus Fitness in County Kerry, Joe O'Connor explains how MZ-Remote helped grow memberships during the pandemic and transform Nisus into a hybrid boutique
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Bristol University has commited to embracing body positivity, creating more inclusive physical activity environments, rejecting diet culture and raising awareness of eating disorders across its sports and fitness provision. Should the rest of the fitness sector follow suit? Kath Hudson reports
Features
Write to reply
Fuel the debate about issues and opportunities across the industry. We’d love to hear from you – email: [email protected]
Features
Body scanning
COVID-19 is driving huge consumer interest in health, creating the opportunity for operators (with the right kit) to offer body scanning and analysis. We look at some of the top options
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Supplier showcase
Prestigious estate, Stoke Park, has invested in a new fitness technology upgrade by Matrix
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Supplier showcase
Sporteve has enhanced its in-club digital experience by working with Funxtion to install multiscreens to power the member experience
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Mid Ulster District Council (MUDC) in Northern Ireland has won a landmark VAT case, which ...
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Opinion
promotion
Our world has changed since March and together, we are learning and adapting to how this sector can continue to thrive in this COVID conscious world.
Opinion: Why fitness clubs and facilities need to evolve in a COVID-conscious world
Opinion
promotion
In a post-Covid world, member experience is more important than ever before. Your customers’ expectations have been heightened as the coronavirus continues to dominate our everyday lives.
Opinion: Why member experience is more important now than ever before
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Video Gallery
Freemotion FUSION Team Training
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The High-Intensity Cardio-Strength Training. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Gympass
On a mission to defeat inactivity, Gympass is a corporate wellness solution that builds mutually ...
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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
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Software
Volution.fit: Software
Fitness equipment
TRX Training: Fitness equipment
Lockers/interior design
Fitlockers: Lockers/interior design
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
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Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Member feedback software
AskNicely: Member feedback software
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Property & Tenders
11 - 25 Union St, London SE1 1SD
Bankside Open Spaces Trust
Property & Tenders
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
12 Nov 2020
Virtual, United States
Diary dates
17 Nov 2020
Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom
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27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
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03-03 Dec 2020
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08-09 Dec 2020
Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore, Singapore
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02-04 Feb 2021
Ericsson Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
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23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
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03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
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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
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/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
Mid Ulster District Council (MUDC) in Northern Ireland has won a landmark VAT case, which ...
Latest News
The government has pledged to invest £100m in supporting public leisure centres this winter, as ...
Latest News
Gyms in Liverpool,UK, have been given the go-ahead to reopen, following a dramatic week of ...
Latest News
Be Military Fit (BMF) has completed a restructuring project, designed to transform the outdoor fitness ...
Latest News
Rod Hill, former president of TRIB3 and director general of Anytime Fitness Iberia, has signed ...
Latest News
Persistent and rising levels of lifestyle disease across the world have exacerbated the effects of ...
Latest News
Customer experience software provider, AskNicely, has announced it will host a new virtual event called ...
Latest News
In breaking news, HCM understands the UK government has removed gyms and fitness facilities from ...
Latest News
Globally, gyms have, on average, seen nearly 70 per cent of their pre-lockdown members return ...
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A UK government U-turn – just announced – will see gyms and leisure centres staying open ...
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"Dozens" of gyms in Liverpool, UK, have defied the government and stayed open for business ...
Opinion
promotion
Our world has changed since March and together, we are learning and adapting to how this sector can continue to thrive in this COVID conscious world.
Opinion: Why fitness clubs and facilities need to evolve in a COVID-conscious world
Opinion
promotion
In a post-Covid world, member experience is more important than ever before. Your customers’ expectations have been heightened as the coronavirus continues to dominate our everyday lives.
Opinion: Why member experience is more important now than ever before
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Red Light Rising teams up with ITRM Clinic to supply red light therapy for injured athletes
Red light therapy equipment supplier, Red Light Rising, has partnered with Aidan Robinson of ITRM Clinic in the UK
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Cryotherapy specialists, L&R Kältetechnik, launch new artofcryo.com division
L&R Kältetechnik has launched a new division, named artofcryo.com, after 30 years’ experience with -110 °C electrical solutions.
Video Gallery
Freemotion FUSION Team Training
FreeMotion Fitness
The High-Intensity Cardio-Strength Training. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Gympass
On a mission to defeat inactivity, Gympass is a corporate wellness solution that builds mutually ...
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
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Software
Volution.fit: Software
Fitness equipment
TRX Training: Fitness equipment
Lockers/interior design
Fitlockers: Lockers/interior design
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Member feedback software
AskNicely: Member feedback software
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Property & Tenders
11 - 25 Union St, London SE1 1SD
Bankside Open Spaces Trust
Property & Tenders
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
12 Nov 2020
Virtual, United States
Diary dates
17 Nov 2020
Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-03 Dec 2020
Virtual,
Diary dates
08-09 Dec 2020
Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore, Singapore
Diary dates
02-04 Feb 2021
Ericsson Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, 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
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