Fitness in China: a promising technology-oriented industry !

 

Sports and especially fitness and weight have become one of the most trending topics of discussion on social media like Weibo, Xiaohongshu, and WeChat during the global pandemic. People have become more health and wellness conscious since the 2016 “Healthy China 2030” speech by the Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council, which encourages Chinese people to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and aims to improve health services, optimize the health industry, etc. The covid-19 has also had an important influence on these priorities which are, to a large extent, satisfied by exercising regularly.

However, the multiple quarantines did not help to move frequently or to practice a physical activity: sports gatherings were forbidden, gyms were closed… but these physical barriers still helped the development of a market: the digital fitness !

The Health & Wellness market in China

According to the South China Morning Post, the Health & Wellness industry in China is estimated to grow by 19.2% to $145.1 billion by 2025. [1] This market includes every company related to the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Fitness in China with gyms

  • Number of gyms

Among the companies in the health and wellness market, we obviously find gyms. According to Daxue Consulting, the fitness industry in China is estimated to generate around $7.1 billion annually. [2]

China is one of the countries where the number of new gyms continues to multiply, from about 500 gyms in 2001 to approximately a little over 98,000 fitness clubs by the end of 2019 in China. [2]

In August 2020, 46% of the Chinese population claimed to have a gym membership. Among this population of sports lovers, 1 out of 2 women had a subscription, against 43% of men. [3] [4]

The profile of individuals who were most likely to visit a gym in August 2020 in China were Millennials between 25 and 34 years old, living in first tier cities like Beijing or Shanghai. Almost 60% of this group has a gym membership. The second group of athletes is the Gen Z generation, the 16–24-year-olds, almost 1 in 2 have a gym membership. [5] The younger generation of athletes in China are strongly influenced by KOLs and KOCs via social media such as Douyin (Tiktok) and Bilibili, which they consult frequently.

 

Chinese sports enthusiasts go to the gym regularly with 52% of them going several times a week, or several times a month at 39%.

Their motivations for going to the gym in August 2020, were first of all for their general physical condition and to be in good health at about 80% for men and women, then to improve their mental health and to de-stress/relax at 47%, and in 3rd position came “to lose weight”, motivation cited by 30% of men and 47% of women. [6] So, there is a real link between well-being and sport in China too.

As for the motivations that pushed the Chinese to take a gym membership, we had the following: the convenient location of the gym, close to home, work, or school (voted by more than 70%); the membership cost is correct (a little more than 50%); and the gym has good equipment, good services and good choices of classes (more than 30%). [7]

Among the most popular clubs in China in 2020, we found at the top of the ranking: Zhongtian Fitness, LEFIT, Kuaikuai Fitness and Supermonkey Fitness. But, we will talk about it, traditional gyms are no longer the most popular solutions to practice sports in China.

  • Workout wear and equipment to exercise at home

With the growth in the number of gyms and at-home sports, sales of workout wear have also increased significantly. In addition, beauty ideals have changed, giving more importance to people who look “fit and healthy”, so slightly more “sportswear/sporty” clothing looks have become appreciated and even considered “sexy” by Millennials and Gen Zers.

The sales value of sportswear in China has increased from 148.3 billion yuan in 2014 (~$23 billion) to 316.6 billion yuan in 2019 (~$49 billion), this has more than doubled in 5 years. [8]

Among the most popular products are leggings, with modern or even fashionable designs that are comfortable and enhance the curves of toned legs. These have been brought to the front by the boom in yoga practice in China.

Some of the most popular workout wear brands in China recently are Nike, Adidas, Anta… and recently, the brand Lululemon has made a great entry into the market!

Lululemon is a Canadian brand established in 1998, which sells fitness products such as sportswear, accessories, and sports equipment.

“In the third quarter last year, China delivered a ‘really strong performance’ with revenue increasing by more than 100 per cent,” CEO says. [1] China has the third most Lululemon stores in the world. There were 25 in 2019 and now in 2021 there are 55.

A success that shows the potential of foreign brands in this growing market!

Linked with workout wear, the purchase of sports equipment for the home has also increased significantly. Sales of these have risen from 36.63 trillion yuan in 2016 (~$5.5 billion) to an estimated 52.61 trillion yuan in 2020 (~$8.2 billion). [9]

These are products like treadmills, indoor bikes, weight sets, yoga mats, exercise balls… their sales increased by 11% on local e-commerce platforms during the pandemic and confinements.

Digital Fitness

  • Fitness apps

It is well known that Chinese people use their smartphones a lot, all services are accessible via their mobile, and at least 60% of e-commerce sales there are done on mobile.

It is therefore quite natural that this country has seen a growing popularity of fitness apps on smartphones. It is reported that more than 268 million Chinese were using at least one in 2019, and this number will continue to grow to potentially 373.2 million users by 2024. [10] Their number of monthly users has doubled in just 1 year due to the pandemic from February 2019 to February 2020.

The most popular fitness apps are: “Keep” which dominates the market with 40 million monthly active users by 2019, followed by “Codoon”, “Mifit”, “Yodo Run”, etc.

A study was made to define the profile of users of these applications in February 2021. 52.1% of the users are women, 40% of the users are less than 25 years old [11] and the frequency of use of these applications is once a week (35.2%) or once or twice a week (28.4%) in majority.

On these applications, it is possible to do a lot of things. For example, you can: find series of exercises adapted to your needs, even create your own customized program, you can have a personal trainer, you can join other people to do sessions together through livestream, share fitness tips, post photos, buy fitness related products…

  • 3D and IA

Other innovations used more and more in the sports field in China are 3D and artificial intelligence.

These cutting-edge techniques are applied to the training of high-level Chinese athletes, especially those participating in the Olympic Games!

For example, for competitive divers, it is possible to 3Dize their movements on a software to analyze their performances in the smallest details in order to improve them as efficiently and precisely as possible.

For table tennis, a robot with AI was created in 2020 as a coaching system. Pangbot M-ONE can adapt the speed and angle of the ball shot according to the opponent’s player while analyzing his playing technique and performance. It was co-developed by the China Table Tennis College of Shanghai University of Sport and Siasun Robot & Automation Co. [12]

  • Other fitness digital accessories

To continue in digital, we can talk about the growing interest of Chinese sport enthusiasts for connected objects designed to track their health and sports performance.

In 2016, the Chinese were already 46% to track their health with connected objects, compared to just over 20% in France. So it’s only natural that this market has continued to grow.

In 2018, the smart wearables market in China accounted for 30.41 billion yuan (~$4.8 billion) and is estimated to reach 91.37 billion yuan (~$14.1 billion) in 2023. [13]

These accessories are, for example, bracelets or watches designed for running, swimming and other purposes. The main function is distance tracking but there is also heart rate tracking with the number of heart beats per minute.

There are also connected indoor bikes like the “Xiaomi Yesoul V1-Plus Beast smart exercise bike” and now even connected mirrors such as the one from Lululemon or the one from startup myShape. The myShape mirror allows you to view instructional videos based on our technical analysis, it also provides performance feedback and tips for correcting specific movements thanks to the 3D sensors of the deep learning cameras embedded in the glass. It has over 1500 training modes, for a price of $1495 per unit.

The brands that stand out in connected sports in China in 2020 are first of all local companies: Huawei (28.6% market share), Xiaomi (22%), BBK (5.7%), Oppo (3.3%)… and foreign companies like Apple (17.8%) and Sony (1.9%). [14]

Chinese companies are really capable of developing both software and hardware and are attracting millions in investment. They are also helping great leaders to emerge in the lucrative fitness and wellness industries.

It is clear that in China, digital is a crucial ally in the development of the sports industry!

The strong impact of this Covid-19 period has redefined the priorities of the population. Physical and mental health and wellness are not just ephemeral trends, they will remain an important pillar of many people’s daily lives to continue to develop a healthy lifestyle and personal fulfillment.

Want to know more about Beauty & Wellness news and trends in China ? Follow Panda Meetings on socials medias !

Sources :

[1] South China Morning Post, “Lululemon bets on China after revenue from mainland more than doubles during coronavirus pandemic”, February 2021.

[2] Daxue Consulting, “The sports and fitness market in China: China’s fitness appetite is growing as fitness becomes the new lifestyle”, February 2021.

[3] Statista, “Share of respondents that had a gym or fitness studio membership in China as of August 2020”, 2021.

[4] Statista, “Share of respondents that had a gym or fitness studio membership in China as of August 2020, by gender”, 2021.

[5] Statista, “Share of respondents that had a gym or fitness studio membership in China as of August 2020, by age group”, 2021.

[6] Statista, “Reasons for regularly going to the gym in China as of August 2020, by gender”, 2021.

[7] Statista, “Reasons for signing up for a gym in China as of August 2020, by gender”, 2021.

[8] Statista, “Sales value of sportswear in China from 2014 to 2019”, 2021.

[9] Statista, “Size of fitness equipment market in China from 2016 to 2019 with an estimate for 2020”, 2021.

[10] Statista, “Forecast for the number of online users in the eServices Fitness market in China from 2017 to 2024”, 2019.

[11] Statista, “Share of active users* on fitness apps in China as of February 2021, by gender” + “Share of active users* on fitness apps in China as of February 2021, by age group”, 2021

[12] Global Times, “High-tech powers Chinese athletes’ strong performance at Olympics”, August 2021.

[13] Statista, “Size of the smart wearables market in China from 2014 to 2018 with a forecast until 2023”, 2018.

[14] Statista, “Market share of wearable electronics in China in 2017 and 2020, by manufacturer”, 2020.