China is a booming economy with vast opportunities for business expansion. As the Chinese population becomes more affluent, they are also becoming more health conscious. This has resulted in an increased demand for fitness centers and healthy lifestyle products and services. If you’re looking to get into the Chinese market, the fitness center industry is a great place to start! In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the fitness center industry in China and discuss some of the key factors that you need to consider if you want to succeed in this market. Stay tuned!
China’s fitness industry is growing at a fast pace
The large and active Chinese millennial population has also encouraged this trend by subscribing to gym memberships and fitness classes. China’s fitness boom is also encouraged by the government. The government unveiled a five-year plan regarding the fitness market, for an amount of 1.5 trillion yuan ($225 billion) in national spending in order to improve its citizen’s fitness level as well as to fight obesity. The plan focuses mainly on teenagers, who will likely carry on these fitness habits as they age.
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China’s Fitness market
The sports and fitness market in China has seen exponential growth, from about 500 gyms in 2001 to 49,860 fitness clubs in 2019 (mainland China). Almost 400 million people have actively taken part in exercises regularly in 2019 indicating a huge potential for foreign and local fitness companies to enter the Chinese market. The rise in exercising, gyms and fitness clubs is also the result of the growing demand of the athleisure (Athletic & Leisure) sportswear market in China and the use of fitness apps, and fitness influencers coupled with the growing health awareness in China.
The fitness industry has been increasing over the years in China among all of China’s social classes but it’s revealed to be particularly popular among the Chinese middle-class who have become more interested in maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. As a result, the number of fitness studios has been surging especially in bigger and more advanced cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong. Moreover, fitness apps have also observed a consequent number of downloads, and app usage has without a doubt been fueled by social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most fitness enthusiasts are located in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. The emergence of fitness apps has played a major role in the increased popularity of exercising all across the country. This phenomenon has led to a rise in health awareness as well as an interest in fitness as a lifestyle, largely embraced by Chinese influencers on social media. Based on a report published by Ibis World, the fitness industry has experienced a 4.4% annual growth from 2015 to 2020. The Chinese fitness industry is estimated to generate approx. $6.2 billion US in 2024.
One segment doing particularly well is the sportswear one. In fact, China’s sportswear market is predicted to surpass the luxury goods market by 2020.
Thanks to an increase in disposable income, and a growing awareness of the benefits of sports, the demand for fitness centers is increasing, especially in larger cities in China such as Beijing and Shanghai, these cities were the first ones to develop fitness centers. Over the years, China’s fitness centers are becoming more mature and are more focused on their brand image and brand value. All these fitness centers are targeting different segments of clients. Fitness centers are separated into three categories: high-end, middle-class, and budget-friendly, to suit the different consumers.
Why are fitness clubs booming in China?
The majority of fitness clubs operate in more developed provinces. As mentioned previously, the largest markets for gyms are located in more advanced cities such as Beijing and Shanghai which are often used as trial cities for fitness studio brands who wish to launch innovative concepts. At the moment, the fitness industry is still fragmented due to various gym operators offering a wide variety of services.
Yoga and Dance Sessions: very popular activities in China
The yoga industry is worth over $88bn worldwide and the industry is expected to reach $215bn worldwide by 2025. As for China, the revenue was 25.4 billion yuan (2017) and reached 46.8 billion yuan ($6.6bn/£5.3bn) in 2020.
There has been a peak in Chinese search engines since March 2020 indicating that coronavirus could have spiked Chinese people’s interest in doing yoga. This may be people looking at ways to stay healthy and active during the lockdown or a way to deal with the situation. Concerning people who have picked up doing Yoga during the pandemic, they are likely to continue it even after the restrictions are lifted but the demand might decrease slightly compared to the intense lockdown period.
Chinese people enjoy taking part in Yoga because in China Yoga is considered a way to relieve stress, cultivate beauty and keep fit. This is the reason why many fitness centers have different types of Yoga and dance classes. This means that the demand and popularity of such activities are relatively high. Even though there is Cardio and Bodybuilding session in Chinese fitness centers, there are not as many demands as sessions on Yoga and Dance.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, online fitness has increased along with online Yoga which has also benefitted from the lockdown, the result being that a lot of videos of people, especially KOL who displayed fitness exercises and promoted sportswear and fitness equipment have gone viral on Chinese social platforms such as Douyin/TikTok and Xiaohongshu.
Online fitness is a new trend in China
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a wide majority of businesses to close all over the world, China included, it is no surprise that physical fitness clubs have been struggling to survive. Moreover, the trend for home exercise has drastically increased during the lockdown periods, this trend will very likely continue even after the pandemic is over. Sports apps such as Keep, Codoon, and Mi Fit have been getting very popular among online fitness users in China. App users can easily get training tips, find online fitness courses, and get connected with other fitness enthusiasts and professional trainers simply via their smartphones.
With the domestic pandemic being brought under control in China, the majority meaning over 90% of gyms and fitness rooms have been gradually reopening. However, it is important to note that the full recovery of the fitness industry remains uncertain, depending on the control of further outbreaks.
On a more positive note, the pandemic has increased Chinese citizens’ awareness regarding health and fitness. Moreover, the pandemic has accelerated the digitization of the fitness industry. As gym operators create online content and classes to maintain and/or expand their customer base, consumers are becoming more and more familiar with home fitness and online fitness.
Established Fitness brands are increasing their physical presence in China
A striking example is Adidas, indeed in 2016 the brand revealed its plan to open 3 000 new stores all across the country, this plan will bring the total number of stores up to 12 000. In June 2020 with more than 12 000 stores, Adidas’s goal was reached. With China representing such a consequent market, other fitness companies also plan to enter this market.
Fitness blogs & Influencers
The boom of fitness centers in China coincides with the growth of the Internet and the boom of social media. Unlike the older generation of gym-goers, the millennials (people born between the early 80s and late 90s) are very enthusiastic about exercising. The main difference between exercising aficionados of the older and the new generation is that the newer generation is more willing to indulge in online exercises and resources in order to work out smarter.
Promoting your fitness business in China.
Social Media: Advertising your fitness business through social media, especially on platforms such as WeChat is a great way to increase your visibility and make yourself known to Chinese users. Many Chinese people follow a dozen of fitness blogs. Every day, they will look on their news feeds to learn about new workout routines or trendy diets.
Popular social media platforms :
- Douyin / TikTok
- Xiaohongshu / Little Red Book / RED
Cross-border e-commerce platforms: Having a presence on e-commerce platforms is an excellent way to reach a wide variety of consumers. It also allows you to sell directly to a large number of customers from all over the world.
Creation of your Chinese website: In order to make your business relevant to Chinese customers, it is necessary to make your website in Chinese as it allows you to enhance your brand interest and visibility.
Baidu: Baidu is the largest search engine in China, and also the largest Chinese search engine in the world, so having your business come up in the first results on Baidu search engine is an excellent way to boost your brand awareness.
KOLs: Using KOLs to promote your fitness business is a very popular strategy in China. As they allow for consumers to have a good and trustworthy review of sports products.
However, choosing the right KOL requires a lot of research!
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As a Digital marketing team specializing in the Chinese Market, SEO Agency China (sub-department of GMA) can help you to enter the Chinese fitness & wellness market. With almost 10 years of expertise, we have the most advanced solutions to help you increase your visibility.