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In 2017, did the new modern fitness room beat the traditional fitness centers in China?

By Nong Ruowen Tuesday, 23 Jan 2018 21:50

Over the whole year of 2017, two fitness industry headlines dominated the sports media in China. The first was that K-Bird ceased its acquisition of Will’s Fitness, and the second was the launch of a new type of fitness room, such as LEFIT and Super Monkey, which were highly valued by capitals and Super Monkey receiving a nine-figure RMB investment. 

However, some practitioners believe that these two dominant stories reflected a huge trend in the fitness industry in China with traditional fitness rooms facing major challenges especially from the rapid emergence of new fitness rooms. 

Will’s Fitness tends to be seen as one of the traditional fitness centers in China. These fitness centers are usually larger in size and have more facilities than the new fitness rooms such as LEFIT and Super Monkey. 

But these features often mean higher costs to the operators of the traditional fitness centers trying to keep their business profitable. As a result, these fitness centers tend to pay more attention to attracting more customers and charging several thousand RMB in annual membership fees but their services are usually of a standard quality.

As more and more people over the past years began to pursue a healthier lifestyle ,the traditional fitness centers have enjoyed a booming period, during which people swarmed to this industry and the total number of fitness centers in China dramatically increased. 

However, these fitness rooms lacked specialized services for their customers, so that each single fitness center faced decreasing business performance. As some insiders said, one of the reasons K-Bird pulled out of the deal was the low net profit and high asset-liability ratio of Will's Fitness' stakeholders which made the acquisition not advantageous to K-bird.

On the other hand, it is always hard for many people to persist in their pursuit of a comfortable fitness lifestyle, which makes them more hesitant than before to pay thousands of RMB for their lack of motivation and brings the traditional fitness centers a big challenge.

To solve this problem, a group of new fitness rooms have popped up and have become more popular in a short time. Unlike the traditional centers, these new fitness rooms are smaller in size and have a more flexible membership system. For example, LEFIT charge its customers per month, which is much more acceptable to many people. 

Founded in 2015, LEFIT is a 24-hour professional fitness O2O platform that combines users, coaches and gyms. Typically, users can enjoy its fitness services at a cost of 99 RMB per month (199 RMB per month in Beijing and Shanghai). As of now, it has served more than 35 million users with more than 300,000 courses and has 200 locations in Hangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing and Jinan. 

With the rapid speed of its expansion, LEFIT completed a 300-million RMB Series C financing in October 2017, led by the Hillhouse Capital Group, and co-investment by Huasheng Capital and IDG Capital Partners. 

Two months later, another new fitness room Super Monkey also announced its nine-figure RMB C Financing Round. Similar to LEFIT, Super Monkey is a 24-hour self-service fitness room with a monthly membership system. But what is worth emphasizing is that Super Monkey is famous for its aerobics classes. 

Reportedly, Super Monkey has launched a “pay-per-class” charging system for its aerobics class, where a group of customers can do aerobics under the leadership of one coach. Generally, coaches of Super Monkey have turned their classes into fitness parties, which have been highly welcomed by their customers.  

Alongside the two new fitness rooms, Misspao became more famous in 2017. 

Misspao, founded in May 2017, is a Chinese start-up developing fully-automated mini fitness rooms. As of now, it has a presence in 1,000 Beijing communities and 500 Shanghai communities along with 100 facilities. 

Last October, Misspao raised 75 million RMB (approximately US$11 million) in Series A round financing, led by the National Small and Medium-size Enterprises Development Fund, co-invested by Matrix Partners China, ChinaEquity Group, Whales Capital and Lieying Capital.

Above all, it is not hard to see that people, at least investors and sports industry practitioners indeed have different expectations to traditional and new fitness centers. These new fitness rooms give people a better experience of fitness, but as of now, it might still be too early to say whether the former has overwhelmed the latter in attracting more customers. 

In other words, a person without any interest in fitness will neither go to the traditional fitness centers nor the new fitness rooms. As a result, how to ignite people’s enthusiasm for a healthy fitness lifestyle is still a crucial question for both types of fitness facilities to answer. But now, the party-like aerobics class offered by Super Monkey maybe a key to it.   

Proofread by Raymond Fitzpatrick

Tags: Fitness K-Bird


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