Sports / China

Sports industry racing to open up

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-08-11 17:05

Sports industry racing to open up

Now Fitness gym members run on treadmills at night. Due to the intense pace of urban life, 24-hour fitness clubs are becoming popular. Wei Xiaohao / China Daily

Governing body loosens its grip on State-dominated market with huge potential

It's 11 pm on Friday night and the hot scenes at Now Fitness, Beijing's first 24-hour gym in eastern downtown, are pumping adrenaline high enough for another workout session.

The noises of weight plates tapping each other, dumbbells hitting the ground and treadmills running fast mixed with deep breaths and groans sound like a wake-up call for gym members like Lin Peng, a white-collar employee who lives nearby.

"I like the electrifying atmosphere here. It's late at night but the energy doesn't stop at all. Working out at night helps us shake off the mental stress from during the day," said Lin, who has signed up for a one-year membership at Now Fitness.

"It's really convenient to have a gym running 24 hours at your doorstep so you can make use of your spare time even late at night, that's why I think a lot of people love it here," he added.

Inspired by the concept of the 24-hour operations of US-based franchise Anytime Fitness, veteran fitness trainer Yang Bin started his own business by opening Now Fitness in January.

He said he has high expectations of taking advantage of the fast-growing public enthusiasm for keeping fit and healthy.

"The passion for fitness has been roaring among urban residents, but a lot of people just don't have time for a workout during the daytime, even at weekends. So why not pull pieces of time together and make full use of it at night?" said Yang, who started his career as a fitness trainer in 2003.

Six months on, Now Fitness has attracted 500 members with eight employees including four trainers, and has managed to break even despite operational costs of more than 1 million yuan ($160,000).

"The growing market has provided untapped potential for privately owned businesses to net gains in the sports industry," said Yang, who is preparing to open another gym branch in the northeastern downtown area.

The boom in the fitness industry underscores how spending on sporting events and fitness-related activities has soared against a backdrop of urban consumption that has rapidly shifted toward leisure and recreation in recent years.

With a growing number of domestic and international sporting events held annually, related businesses, including club merchandizing, onsite catering, sales of sporting goods and trading in media rights, have been booming, contributing an increasing amount to the turnover of the country's fledgling sports industry.

According to research by Tan Jianxiang, a professor of sports sociology at South China Normal University, the added value of the sports industry reached 340 billion yuan in 2013 and has seen an average annual growth of 13.4 percent since 2008.

"Compared with the flat overall economic growth, the sports industry has grown rapidly over the years. The consumption of intangible products, such as professional league games, fitness guidance and services, has been an increasingly important driver of the growth," said Tan, a member of the State Council's think tank on sports policy.

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