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Anytime Fitness looks to drive future growth outside of clubs’ ‘four walls’
US-based gym franchise Anytime Fitness is looking at further growth and innovation in the Australian market in partnership with its local master franchisee the Collective Wellness Group.
Speaking to Australasian Leisure Management during a recent visit to the country, Dave Mortensen, Anytime Fitness’ President and co-founder, explained how the group is looking to expand beyond the traditional club environment to become a lifestyle brand.
Mortenson advised “we want to really democratise health and wellness coaching and really reach our consumers, not just with fitness but with nutrition, with mindfulness, with sleep. All of the things that keep you living a better, healthier lifestyle are the things that we will bridge inside of our brand and connect the availability to those things through our brand, with our consumers.”
Looking at future growth for both Anytime Fitness and the wider exercise industry, Mortenson stated “the market is growing and frankly we've got a long way to go to introduce fitness into all lifestyles across the world.
“And when you really look at it we're still losing the battle of obesity - obesity is still winning in every market we're in today. So, we've got a lot of work ahead of us to change the lifestyle habits of our consumers.
“And even in Australia we’ve got to find a way to help sedentary consumer live a more active lifestyle and here we will evolve in two ways.
“(Up until now) we've been very much a convenience brand making fitness accessible to every community possible (but) our next step is to reach our consumers not just inside of our four walls but outside of our four walls - to help them live an active lifestyle, not just working out in the gym because that's only like two hours out of 168 hours that we have in a week.
“We believe we've got to reach them somehow, someway and be a coach to them in achieving positive lifestyle results.
“As many brands look to see how many memberships to sell we want to see how many we can help change lives. And that's where we win. We believe we're going to be the number one consumer brand because we continue to lean in ways to reach our consumers in a way no other brand is doing that. And that's really out of relationships, because consumers need help in guiding them to a healthier lifestyle.
“We've a lot more facilities, a lot more territories yet available for us because every community needs fitness.”
Looking back on entering the Australian market in 2008, when the group had a target to operate 350 gyms (it now has more than 500), Mortenson recalled “out of all markets we were really excited to come to Australia because there's a lot of similarities between the US and Australian markets and the way people live.
“We were really confident when coming here, but even more confident when we met Justin and Richard (Justin McDonell and Richard Piel, Anytime Fitness’ master franchisors for Australia, who formed the Collective Wellness Group in 2015, ed) because the relationship was just right.
“When you go to master franchising you bring your brand to another market so the most important thing you have to find is someone you want to work with. Justin and Richard understood the industry, and they have grit, they work really hard.
“So, when we expanded in this market, we really got excited about the opportunity and it continues to flourish today. We're overwhelmed with where we've landed and where we are today and we're really excited about what the future brings too.”
Outside of North America, Australia was the first market in Anytime Fitness’ first international operations, which has now grown to more than 35 countries across six continents – and will soon see the opening of a club in the Antarctic.
Commenting on this, Mortenson advised “we always try and be creative. Next, it'll be underwater (and then) maybe the Moon, you never know!”
Explaining the group’s growth in Asia, Mortenson explained “our first market in Asia was Japan, which saw us open our first clubs there in 2010 … (and) by the end of this year Japan will just exceed 700 open units … and they'll probably open another 150 next year as well.”
As for other Asian markets, Anytime has more than 300 clubs across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and China, India, Bahrain and Qatar as well as being set to enter the Indonesian and South Korean markets while also “working on an agreement” to deliver gyms in Saudi Arabia.
With a growing number of, largely, US-based franchises targeting the Asian and Australasian markets, Mortenson welcomes the competition, noting “they are probably behind the times in getting here, (but) the market needs them.
“Consumers need variety and we welcome variety. Variety keeps us on our toes and will continue to keep us on the edge of being the leading brand for the industry.”
Mortenson also emphasises that Anytime Fitness is embracing the increasingly casual nature of people's memberships, noting “it's like a pair of shoes … do you have only one brand? Absolutely not.
“If you have four fitness memberships I'm going to proud of you … we just want to be a part of consumers’ lifestyles and guide them in their activity. If they want to go to Pilates or a barre class or high intensity training we embrace it. If they want to run in a park, I'm going to applaud them for doing so. We have to. We have to be industry first. Too many brands are stuck on their product and their not stuck on their consumer. I want to be stuck on our consumer.”
Explaining the challenges of maintaining consistency across a global brand and the recent example of a Anytime Fitness franchise being seen as ‘fat shaming’, Mortenson added “that's going to happen in franchising, it happens and you know an example of that, it wasn't for the wrong reasons, they just delivered the wrong message.
“But at the same point in time we have two consumers, we have our members, but we also have our franchisees (and) they're our consumer too.
“Here in Australia we have mor than 300 franchisees - a lot own multiple stores – and knowing that they’re are consumers too we have to help guide them back to brand because we all get off track at times and our goal is to help people align that.
“Building the right administration team to manage that is really important but it's not about putting rules on someone it's about educating them on the why of what we're doing and getting them focused on the belief system and patterns that we have to change lives.”
Looking forward, Mortenson concludes “we're continuing to grow as the need for health and wellness is growing … and we are committed to doing a better job in expanding the consumer market to get more people engaged.”
• This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Images (from top): Dave Mortensen, Anytime Fitness’ President and co-founder; Mortensen with Anytime Fitness’ co-founder Chuck Runyon; Justin McDonell and Richard Piel, Anytime Fitness’ master franchisors for Australia and an Anytime Fitness club.
22nd November 2019 - Australian and New Zealand teenagers among the least active in the world
28th October 2019 - Collective Wellness Group makes key executive team appointments
3rd October 2019 - Anytime Fitness announces Stages Indoor Cycling as Global Bike Partner
5th September 2019 - Anytime Fitness and Tough Mudder reveal new partnership
4th September 2019 - Anytime Fitness named a top global franchise 12th consecutive year
1st August 2019 - Asia-Pacific markets targeted by USA fitness franchises
6th May 2019 - Anytime Fitness opens 100th club in The Philippines
17th April 2019 - Passion drives franchisee’s portfolio of fitness clubs
20th December 2018 - Anytime Fitness unveils 500th Australian club
13th December 2018 - Anytime Fitness reveals new design identity for Australian clubs
6th February 2018 - Anytime Fitness links with Diabetes New Zealand to deliver better health
11th November 2017 - Anytime Fitness the ‘fastest-growing fitness franchise of all time’
6th November 2015 - Anytime Fitness’ global growth includes 100 gym openings in Japan
5th November 2015 - Anytime Fitness announces 3,000th global club opening
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