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Lifelong health journey boosts fitness sector

Members take a Pilates class at a Pure yoga studio at Jing”an Kerry Center in Shanghai in October. [Photo/China Daily]

Lululemon/Pure store in Shanghai taps into China’s workout craze

Climbing the curved stairway at Shanghai’s Jing’an Kerry Center, Lululemon’s largest site in the Asia-Pacific region, a fitness studio on the third floor suddenly comes into view.

It is the brainchild of a recent innovation jointly developed by Pure Group and Lululemon, offering small-sized group classes including Tai Chi yoga, Pilates, rings and more than 20 kinds of self-developed yoga and fitness classes.

At the new 400-square-meter location, which consists of two classrooms, consumers can reserve sessions online and sign in automatically by scanning codes on their phones upon arrival.

At the door, clean towels and training apparel are ready for pick-up.

The store is decorated in earth tones, mud red and green, with flowing lines, round corners and curves creating a lively and fluid atmosphere. At the reception desk, its food and beverage brand Nood Food is available at a minibar to diversify edible and potable offerings for members.

During the venue’s opening ceremony, Jane Jiang, managing director of Pure China, said, “The store has redefined advanced athletic scenes and a premium sports community — a gateway to seek expansion and development in China’s fitness market — through collaborating with Lululemon in creating better training experiences and bringing well-being to more people.”

The small-sized studio was unveiled on the 10th anniversary of operating on the Chinese mainland for Pure Group, which has yoga and fitness studios in markets including Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and New York.

“Our presence has proven to have massive potential for high-end fitness studios that prioritize experiences and easy payment methods,” said Jiang, citing the recent ups and downs of the fitness sector across the country, leading to many gym and yoga chain store closings, which has dampened consumer confidence.

At present, the biggest driving force for the domestic sports industry is the emerging participation from women in sports — yoga, citywalks, flying discs and camping — said Adam Zhang, founder of Key-solution Sports Consulting. The rise of the “she-sports” phenomenon has fueled the development of fitness centers, sports facility manufacturing and sportswear products across the country.

The yoga sector, in particular, will continue to grow, Zhang said, adding that, “Women are investing heavily in their well-being, be it skincare and makeup, or wellness activities such as yoga, to nurture themselves in mind and body.”

According to iResearch, in 2020, China’s yoga market already reached 38.7 billion yuan ($5.3 billion), and is forecast to touch 56.1 billion yuan by the end of this year. Yoga apparel itself was valued at $1.6 billion in China in 2021, taking up 23 percent of the global share. The sector is expected to climb to more than $3 billion by 2028, said QY Research.

Lululemon’s largest store in the Asia-Pacific region is located in Jing’an Kerry Center in Shanghai. [Photo/China Daily]

Domestic sports giant Anta last month acquired a 75.13 percent stake in Shanghai-based female-focused sportswear producer Maia Active to pursue the emerging women’s sportswear market in the country. Anta said Maia Active’s business has a certain market influence among female consumers, especially in the yoga sports category, and has potential for future growth.

For global leading athletic apparel company Lululemon Athletica Inc, its revenue in China in the second quarter jumped 61 percent year-on-year to $277 million, doubling the 30 percent growth rate of the same period last year, boosted mainly by store expansion and rising demand from consumers, said the company. In the first half, of the 17 new stores Lululemon opened globally, nine were in China.

It seems only natural that the number of Pure members is on the rise this year, surpassing the peak in 2021, thanks in part to more flexibility in working hours and to growing awareness of well-being and health, said the company.

The majority of its members are high net-worth individuals, including decision-makers at enterprises and senior executives, as well as trend-savvy consumers aged between 25 and 35.

“Younger consumers have joined us for athletic improvement and social occasions, which encourages us to engage even more with trendy brands,” Jiang said. “Pure has become a trendy personal tag for the younger generation to showcase their lifestyles.”

Members’ active participation rate at Pure has grown 30 percent so far this year compared with the same period last year due to the company’s expansion in tutorials, classes and physical space.

For example, some studio balconies have been transformed into locations for classes in order to meet demand from members performing in open-air outdoor settings, said Jiang.

Pure’s business has been divided into half for yoga and half for fitness training in Shanghai. In Beijing, Pure’s two studios so far only offer yoga. The company has added more training for specific sports this year.

As more people have been going outdoors for hiking, riding, cycling, camping and mountain climbing, the company has designed cross-training classes to empower members’ ability to take part in more active outdoor sports.

There is also popularity for classes that have curing and healing functions — both physically and mentally — since the beginning of this year.

At Pure, nearly 40 percent of classes have healing components.

“The reservations for curing and healing classes are often two or three times that of our actual capacity,” said Jiang. “We are up-scaling the ratio of such courses gradually.”

A financially healthy and sustainable payment system is key for the survival of the fitness centers and has helped boost confidence among members, she said.

Pure, which asks for monthly payments instead of long-term prepaid cards, has raised its prices by 10 to 25 percent compared with last year, according to individual membership terms and conditions.

Jiang said the price increase is partly to invest more in added-value classes and renovation of facilities and products.

Returning to the new store format, over the short term, the firm is not planning to open large-scale sites, said Jiang.

“We are exploring more options in terms of formats, specialty and highlights, and varieties of sizes.”

The new studios could be collaborations with other industries to roll out different types of gyms, probably with 1,000 to 2,000 sq m, she said.

Empowered by the surging ecology of the health, fitness and sportswear industry, Pure has more social responsibility to provide members with a sense of belonging and security, said the managing director.

Safety and efficiency are what Pure’s members are looking for the most, inspiring a new category of business — personal wellness coaches.

A lifelong fitness journey free of injury is on Pure’s agenda for China’s aging society, or what is often called “lifestyle medicine” — using lifestyle interventions as a primary way to treat chronic conditions. The solutions cover individual diet, fitness, pressure management and sleep, with cloud real-time monitoring. For example, with the support of wellness coaches for weight management, it should be mild, effective and sustainable, Jiang said, rather than short-term methods simply relying on diets.

Zhang of Key-solution hailed Pure’s latest innovations in class sizes and store formats. “It is like five-star hotels that can offer good experiences for premium customers. But it would be more fun for them to try niche hospitality experiences with special highlights,” he said.

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