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Fitness business shapes up for further expansion

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By Cristian Cojanu
While still a low percentage of the population holds membership of a sports club, the wellness industry in Romania has major growth potential. In an interview with Business Arena, Mikael Fredholm, CEO and Managing Partner, World Class Romania, points out that the business is going in the right direction and interest for fitness services has been growing fast. He also emphasizes the importance of government policies aimed at encouraging corporate wellness programs for employees.
What are the main achievements World Class has seen in Romania since you took your position as CEO and Mana­ging Partner? What aspects of business have not yielded the expected results?
During my time as CEO and Managing Partner we have grown World Class from eight clubs to 28 clubs and from 12,000 members to 45,000 members. However, more importantly we have implemented, during this time, a whole new corporate culture where everyone in the company is working towards a common vision to “Radically Improve the Lifestyle of People in Romania”. This shared vision has created a very strong and unstoppable force of talented and passionate World Class employees that is inspiring and motivating people to become healthier every day.
Today we have 28 clubs, and at the end of the year there will be at least 31. Our goal for 2016 was to have 25 clubs, so we are ahead of target both in terms of club numbers and in terms of revenue and EBITDA for the year. So I can’t really pinpoint any areas where we haven’t yielded the expected results. But we are always on the lookout for continuous improvements so there is plenty more work to be done.    

How would you describe the general development prospects of the Romanian wellness industry?
Romania still has a long way to go in order to reach the level of many other countries in Europe, especially when it comes to the penetration rate (percentage of the population that is member of a sport or fitness club). But despite the fact that Romania is lagging behind many other European countries, the interest is growing very fast. We have seen an explosion in demand and interest for our services, and every new concept we are introducing is very well received. People are starting to take care of themselves much more than in the past, and they are also starting to see fitness not only as a way of getting slim or building muscles, but also as an everyday necessity to feel well and to live an active and healthy life. Fitness is today a big part of many people’s lifestyle and social life. 

What is your view regarding the level of competition in your sector?
As I have mentioned, the fitness penetration rate in Romania is significantly lower than in many other European countries. In order for Romania to have a healthy population, there is a need for a bigger industry. We cannot create this by ourselves and Romania would need a more professional wellness industry in order to speed up the development and increase penetration rate. Unfortunately there is a lack of professional players.

What are the most sought-after services and products?
One of the most popular services right now is Body and Mind classes such as Yoga and Pilates. We see a very big and growing interest for this type of classes. Another very popular product that has been growing rapidly is Personal Training. People have really started to see the benefit of training with a Personal Trainer. It leads both to increased efficiency and better results as well as motivation and inspiration. Personal Training is now a very common and regular appointment in people’s calendar. 

What are the aspects that give your company an edge against competition?
Two things: Motivation and Inspiration. Everything we do is surrounded by and based around these two words. Most fitness companies around the world scream out to the market: “Hey, come to me because we will give you results!”. Results are of course important for people when they join a fitness facility, but how various fitness companies help their members to get results varies greatly. For us it’s all about motivation and inspiration, because, at the end of the day, if our members receive this, they will get results. But building motivation and inspiration, as we all know, is a science in itself and there have been plenty of books written and researches done on this subject. Again, these two words surround everything we do. From how we design our clubs, products and services to how all of our staff interacts with our members and how we help our members with tools such as our blog and magazine.

To read the full version, see the print edition of Business Arena.

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