Fit­ness, driver of con­sumer mar­ket

China Daily (USA) - - Q & A WITH CEO - By WU YIYAO in Shang­hai wuyiyao@chi­

Satur­day morn­ings ap­pear to be ideal for fit­ness-crazy Shang­hai groups to have fun in the form of dance-like work­outs out­doors.

Some 500 lined up last Satur­day to join a one-hour event. The venue was dis­co­l­ike. Les Mills, one of the world’s largest devel­op­ers of group work­outs, kicked off its global tour for 2016 be­side the shim­mer­ing Huangpu.

On the dais, five coaches gave in­struc­tions to the fit­ness fa­nat­ics, who pushed up weight-laden bar­bells in sync with the beats of rock-an­droll mu­sic.

“It feels more like a party than an early morn­ing workout,” said Zhang Qiong, 26, who woke up at 6 am to at­tend the morn­ing’s first class.

Phillip Mills, CEO of Les Mills, said it is not sur­pris­ing Chi­nese peo­ple are pas­sion­ate about group work­outs, given the pro­lif­er­at­ing gyms and fit­ness pro­grams.

Les Mills’ pro­grams are pro­vided to 8 mil­lion peo­ple by 90,000 teach­ers in more than 17,000 clubs around the world ev­ery week.

The firm is eye­ing fast growth in China. “Work­outs have be­come a life­style. Peo­ple be­lieve they are good for work­life balance. As far as I know, China has more than 18,000 brands of gyms and workout pro­grams. Les Mills has been pop­u­lar around the world. Now, it’s get­ting in­creas­ingly wel­comed across the na­tion,” said Phillip Mills.

“China’s fit­ness mar­ket, in­clud­ing gyms and pro­gram devel­op­ers, needs con­sol­i­da­tion af­ter the fast growth. In the long run, we’re con­fi­dent the mar­ket size is really go­ing to ex­pand to a sig­nif­i­cant size.” con­sumer checks read­ings on an app while ex­er­cis­ing at a club in Beijing.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­search note from Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional, de­mand for fit­ness in China has be­come one of the top ten driv­ers of the con­sumer mar­ket. Other driv­ers in­clude cloth­ing, leisure, en­ter­tain­ment, food and bev­er­ages.

Joey Chio, se­nior as­so­ci­ate direc­tor of Sav­ills China Re­tail Ten­ant Rep­re­sen­ta­tion, said that ath­let­ics-re­lated leisure, also called “ath­leisure” by fit­ness fans, has been gain­ing mar­ket share in cloth­ing in re­cent years. Brands such as Lu­l­ule­mon and Un­der Amour have be­come trendy in the re­tail land­scape.

Its spillover ef­fect has been that op­por­tu­ni­ties arose for play­ers in other sec­tors, like mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion devel­op­ers. Keep, a smart­phone app which teaches workout tips and train­ing pro­grams through video clips, now boasts 50 mil­lion users. It re­ceived C round in­vest­ments from, among oth­ers, tech­nol­ogy gi­ant Ten­cent Hold­ing Ltd. This, just two years af­ter launch.

“Fit­ness has be­come pop­u­lar due to many fac­tors. There is govern­ment policy to de­velop the sports sec­tor. Life­styles are chang­ing with more fo­cus on health. There is a cul­tural trend to­ward sexy six-pack fig­ures. There is mid­dle-class anx­i­ety about the costs of ill health and peer pres­sure to look bet­ter. You want to prove you can af­ford to hit a gym to stay ac­tive,” said Ju­lian Chow, an an­a­lyst with Shang­haibased Tang Yue Cul­ture and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Fit­ness mar­ket in­sid­ers said China’s health clubs and gyms still face some chal­lenges, and mea­sures are needed to make the mar­ket more trans­par­ent and fair.

“Piracy of chore­og­ra­phy, un­safe ex­er­cise in­struc­tions given by un­trained coaches, and poorly reg­u­lated mem­ber­ship pric­ing are hin­der­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the fit­ness mar­ket. As the mar­ket gets more ma­ture and com­pe­ti­tion fiercer, con­sumers will have more op­tions, which should im­prove stan­dards,” said Michael Yip, a coach with Tera Well­ness Club.

num­ber of con­sumers who buy Les Mill’s fit­ness pro­grams world­wide


A fit­ness pro­gram

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