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. The domestic fitness industry is expected to reach more than 7 billion dollars in 2022.
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!
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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 more than 100,000 fitness studios in 2022. According to Daxue Consulting, 67.5% of people above 7 years old participated in fitness and sports activities at least once a week in 2022. It’s an increase of 18.5% compared to the rate in 2014.
The large and active Chinese millennial population has encouraged the trend for a healthy lifestyle by subscribing to gym memberships and fitness classes. In fact, in the recent year, more than 15 million customers subscribed to gym memberships.
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. According to China Daily, the government is planning to increase the per capita sports area to 2.6 square meters by 2025.
What are the reasons for the fitness industry boom 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. More than 100 million mobile users have at least one fitness app on their phones nowadays, and there are new apps and platforms popping up every day.
Additionally, especially due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people started being more concerned about their health. China is also facing a problem with obesity, and the problem is especially serious when it comes to children, with every one in three kids having problems with weight.
Who are Chinese fitness enthusiasts?
Most of fitness population is 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 fitness influencers on social media.
But the growing interest in the fitness activities is not reserved only to big cities. In fact, thanks to the pandemic and the need to train at home with mobile apps and online platforms, many people of all ages and from different places and backgrounds started gaining interest in the health and fitness industry, trying to stay fit and watch their eating habits.
As you can see on the data below, although the majority of people actively engaged in some sports activity is mostly young, the older population is also promising. Chinese government also had a say in this, having in mind the problem of an ageing society. Therefore, authorities encourage people of all ages to train, by building new facilities, offering sports programs, and planning to invest more than 5 trillion RMB in sports industry by 2025.
The growing demand for fitness studios in China
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.
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 that wish to launch innovative concepts. At the moment, the Chinese 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 almost 50 billion yuan in 2020.
There has been a peak in Chinese search engines since March 2020 indicating that the 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, that attract millions of monthly active users.
Online fitness is a new trend in China
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, online fitness market 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.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a wide majority of traditional gyms to close all over the world, China included, so it is no surprise that local fitness companies 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 Chinese consumers. App users can easily get training tips, find online fitness courses, and personal training studios, get connected with other fitness enthusiasts and professional trainers simply via their smartphones. This business model also helps companies expand customer relationships on a different level than before.
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.
How to promote your fitness business in China?
Weather you’re in health and fitness industry with a new app, sports equipment or athleisure and sportswear, now it’s a great time to expand your presence and enter the fitness market in China. There are some key steps to take to be able to sell your fitness app, equipment or clothing in Chinese competitive landscape.
Focus on branding and e-reputation
Chinese people rely on word-of-mouth marketing and pay attention to recommendations and reviews of people they know, or influencers they follow. They won’t buy or pay for anything that they never heard of. If you want to promote your fitness app or sports equipment and clothes, you need to build your online presence.
The best way to do so is by building your own Chinese website hosted in China, so that Chinese people will be able to check you up in Baidu. Having a Chinese website will also help you position yourself in Baidu SEO. You can also use other Baidu platforms, such as online forums and Q&A websites, to start conversations about your brand and learn about the needs of your potential consumers.
Position yourself as a professional, high-quality brand
Chinese people, especially those with growing disposable income, put a high importance of the quality of items they buy and services they use. They don’t mind paying a bit more, if they are sure that it’s a good investment. Therefore, promote yourself as a high-quality brand. If you want to open a fitness studio, invest in high-tech smart machines, that are overtaking the fitness market in China.
While promoting your brand, highlight its values and educate about the benefits of using your products/service. You can show videos of professional athletes using them (even better if you collaborate with Chinese athletes or sports influencers), opinions of experts and so on.
Promote your brand on Chinese social media platforms
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 at their news feeds to learn about new workout routines or trendy diets.
You can even use those apps as a testing option. WeChat allows companies to start official accounts and create WeChat stores within the platform. It’s a way cheaper option than entering big online marketplaces like Tmall or Jd.com and will give you some idea of the fitness market and the interest in your service. If you want to promote your app, try to build it within WeChat first. This will help you reach a bigger audience, as it’s easier to share and promote within the app.
You can also start account on platforms like Weibo, Xiaohongshu and Douyin. Those platforms are great in leads generation and reaching wider audience through different content formats. You can post short-videos, polls, photos, live-streams and many more. Xiaohongshu and Douyin also have their own marketplaces, that make it easier to promote the products and increase sales.
Check one of our case studies:
GMA had a pleasure of working with Le Coq Sportif on their social media strategy. Le Coq Sportif is a French producer of athletic and design footwear, activewear, and sporting accessories. The objective was to promote Tour de France and ‘French Touch’ events on Chinese social media platforms, which ended up in 30% increase in company’s Tmall traffic.
Partner with Chinese influencers, athletes and fitness studios or traditional gyms
As the fitness market is booming, so is the sports influencers sector. There are more and more influencers popping up on Chinese social media, especially after Covid-19 pandemic and Winter Olympics in Beijing. Sports people became very popular among Chinese people, especially gym goers and sports enthusiasts.
Collaborating with fitness influencers to promote your brand on their social media accounts is one of the best ways to gain visibility and increase sales in China. They can host live-streaming sessions showing your products, or use your products while training and more. You can also collaborate with local gyms and fitness centers, introducing your products to personal trainers that can later promote them to their customers.
Sell your products on Chinese e-commerce platforms
Although all the mentioned options are essential for branding and e-reputation, nothing will give you such exposure as being present on Chinese cross-border e-commerce platforms. Most of Chinese shoppers prefer to purchase products directly there, as it’s more convenient and safer.
But beware that to start selling on Tmall, Taobao, JD or any other platform, you already need to have good e-reputation and branding in China, as Chinese people prefer to buy only from well-known brands or brands that someone recommended them.
Contact us to start selling your fitness products in China!
Fitness market is booming in China and it’s a great time for all foreign brands to enter this thriving sector. Whenever you’re selling sportswear, sports equipment or want to introduce machines, an app or something else, now is your time!
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 more than 10 years of expertise, we have the most advanced solutions to help you increase your visibility.
We’ve helped over 600 brands to succeed in China. We offer individual approach to each brand and tailor-made solutions to meet your needs.
Here are some of our services:
We helped many brands from different sectors. When it comes to sports and athleisure, we had a pleasure of working with Le Coq Sportif, Canada Goose and Redbull.
Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or contact us to schedule a free consultation!