Seventh yoga centre goes bust
Ng Yuk-hang, Natalie Ornell and Lana Lam
Yet another yoga centre closed yesterday - the third this year and the seventh since 2009. Karma Yoga in Central, which had only opened in September and had about 500 members, held its final classes yesterday.
Owners blamed the high rent and difficulty in finding new members, but said their financial commitments to members had been honoured.
'We have settled with all the members,' said Prity Vazdani, one of the centre's owners.
'For those who are too busy and are unable to come to any of the classes [offered in lieu of refunds], we are giving out yoga mats, which would cost HK$500 to HK600.'
Unlike other yoga chains that folded after members pre-paid for long-term plans, Karma Yoga offered a pay-as-you-go monthly plan. Members on six-month or one-year contracts had to pay a two-month deposit on top of monthly fees.
When Karma announced its impending closure in late May, it offered members additional workshops and training instead of a cash refunds on the deposits. With 500 members paying about HK$1,000 a month, those deposits amounted to around HK$1 million.
Vazdani said most members did not have problems with this arrangement. She said the centre did not charge members for June: a month's worth of deposits was refunded in the form of regular classes.
The centre was also offering workshops and training sessions as a way to refund the second month of deposits paid. Two more workshops will be held, today and on Wednesday, for members who were unable to book a class in recent weeks.
Vazdani said about 5 per cent of members were offered cash refunds.
'Members were generally supportive,' she said. 'They know the situation we are in and are happy to settle with classes instead of cash.'
Member Emma Berwick, 40, said she was surprised to see Karma close. 'Maybe the rents are too high,' she said. 'I will try to find another yoga centre, but I like the teachers here.'
Some members said in online forums they were sorry to see Karma fold. 'It is impossible to survive in the Central business district with monthly fees of under HK$1,000,' one member said.
Karma's outlet, located on four floors of the Silver Fortune Plaza in Wellington Street, paid rent of about HK$600,000 a month. Vazdani said they needed about 1,200 members to become sustainable. 'We started off assuming there was more demand. We had a good location, but we just could not target enough members. Most classes were empty.'
She said many yoga enthusiasts lost confidence after a number of centres folded in recent years.
'They have lost money before and are scared. No one wants to invest in this business anymore.'
In January, the 12-year-old Yoga Limbs and 6,000-member Living Yoga closed.
Going under fast
yoga centre chains in Hong Kong have closed since 2009
members have been affected in total from those closures. Of this number, 13,000 clients had signed up with Planet Yoga, which shut all three branches in May last year
Number of complaints the Consumer Council received about yoga centres last year, of which 330 involved closures
of the 189 complaints received, as of May this year, involved centres closing down
complaints were received in 2009, compared with 139 in 2008
The amount, in Hong Kong dollars, some members of Yoga Yoga - which folded in March last year - had paid in advance for a three-year membership