Gyms work hard to stay healthy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2003, 12:00am

Tough economic times have taken their toll, forcing some clubs to shut down

New York Fitness' decision to merge with another club is the latest example of how the health club industry is trying to stay afloat during the economic downturn.

'After 55 months of deflation many companies are turning to consolidation to stay alive,' said economist Dong Tao.

'The slowdown of the economy, collapse of consumer confidence and the Sars outbreak is forcing them to cut costs and add value,' he said.

Many gyms and beauty spas have been forced to relocate or change their membership strategy to stay alive.

The worst year for the industry was in 2001 when the Consumer Council received 289 complaints against health clubs after four gyms closed without notice, leaving thousands of members and staff in the lurch. The closures sparked calls for tighter regulation of the fitness industry.

In December 2001, thousands of people were affected when The Lift Club (TLC) - which opened in Hong Kong in 1996 - closed its doors without notice.

A notice on the door explained to 30 staff that the economic downturn had cut into profits and forced the gym to close. Members were advised to collect their belongings before December 7. The closure came two weeks after a Gold's Gym outlet shut.

About four months earlier the Spa Retreat, a beauty and health-care centre in Central, closed citing air-conditioning problems. But it never reopened. The Spa Retreat, which opened in 1997, promoted itself as one of Asia's best spas, offering more than 100 treatments and packages. Members had to pay at least $20,000 before joining. Non-members could pay $480 for a 25-minute spa treatment.

In February 2002, Body by Deborah closed its doors, promising to reopen by mid-March. Its 100 staff and more than 2,000 members were left angry and confused when the luxury spa and gym failed to re-open on March 16.