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Fitness Industry AZ: Internationalization – SportOutdoor24

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Fitness Industry AZ: Internationalization – SportOutdoor24

In Italy the large gym chains did not shine in the first expansion phase. Just like the large shopping centers that first crowded out the small shops, but then these slowly repositioned themselves on the local market. Growing market place. But if standardizations are possible for shopping centres, which mainly sell products that are often identical to each other from supermarket

Fitness Industry AZ: Internationalization

The strategic and commercial choices upstream inevitably reverberate on the provision of the fitness service downstream, which cannot be copy-and-pasted from Bolzano to Enna. Like from Calolziocorte to Meda, that is, in the same region but with completely different stories. This is the first point.

Metropolis and province

The second point is that there are no metropolitan areas in Italy in abundance (eight or nine to exaggerate), except for Rome, Milan, Naples and a few others: everything is distributed or rather allocated, in terms of the potential fitness market, on a gigantic province, with differences and contrasts, sometimes, that vary every few kilometers. A hamburger can be sold in the same way in Milan or Naples, but marketing fitness in Naples or Milan will, by God, see some psychographic and meteorological differences: in Milan you walk around in a down jacket while in Naples you swim on the beach. So, from how to when to eat, to how to plan the working day, to the status of mobility, everything is different, rather than the same. And the standard with the different clashes with us badly. Just think of the extended travel times over the same distance between Naples, Rome or Milan.

Fitness multinationals and territorial detail

Having said this, the claim to impose the same fitness standard slowed down, in the early stages, the action of the chains, which by setting up copycat gyms in distant geographical areas did not quite hit the bull’s eye. The fitness multinationals did not initially have that detailed focus on the local area, an observation that must distinguish the different areas of Italy with variations in taste fragmented on the product and service fronts. Mc Donald’s itself has included pieces of Italian cuisine in the menus to meet a standard but by adding a pinch of local, therefore, the “Glocalization of fitness” must be taken into account.

Today, better intercepting the demand for fitness, personalizing it more and more, signals greater attention towards us users. We are the ones who make the market, we who guide it. The strategy, the approach, have had to be updated and will continue to be updated as an APP, because the law of supply that creates demand, conditioning it, has not always been successful. Sometimes it led straight into a wall. And in the fitness industry it is known that the margins are not worthy of a financial statement Oscar.

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Internationalization and national networks

From another aspect, fitness-internationalization has indirectly (or directly) accelerated the development of national fitness networks, groups of local gyms halfway between the large multinational chain and the single gym. For those who sign up, i.e. from the user/customer/member point of view and not from that of the entrepreneur, definitely under pressure after the advent of multinationals, the fitness network can be a solution for choosing the right gym. But the limit of the homemade network is that it is following exactly the initial lines of the multinationals, which then corrected themselves and are now one step ahead. To give a practical example, it is one thing to coordinate ten pizzerias scattered across Italy, it is quite another to launch ten restaurants. For pizzerias, the standard may apply, but for restaurants there is no question of it: each one must have different and localized characteristics in the structure, spaces, number of tables, and method of providing the service.

Similarly, multiple fitness centers positioned in different areas of the city will see each individual gym taking into account the characteristics of the “neighborhood”: by signing up to the number one gym in the network, further out on the outskirts, we will find outdoor activities such as tennis and football, as well as to services and play areas for children. By signing up instead to gym number two, further in the centre,
we will find spa areas and personal training services appreciated by the most exclusive clientele, who usually work in the heart of the city. For gym number three, the entrepreneur’s brain in terms of network development will have to be put to work again. But this is almost never the case because the feeling is that a bit of entrepreneurial presumption creeps in. Yet the self-correcting actions of the multinational chains themselves should have served as an indicator.

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Customer turnover

In any case, to stem the inexorable and sacrosanct advance of the large chains, national networks have also begun to offer subscriptions with which it is possible to go from one gym to another within the group. It could be a good choice, because another reason why signing up to a fitness network is theoretically convenient is the type of management, usually more direct and more hands-on, capable of offering customers instant-desires with fitness -news that are launched without many steps. This, unlike some international chains that implement different procedures, which require the approval of managers who are sometimes far from the local reality. But just going from one club to another or keeping a price at the limits of survival is too much, too little.

If price is the strength of the large chain of gyms that is able to support the typically Italian customer turnover, the others should be given more personalization on the service. More added value, which is not just a yellow or red brand. In this clash between the very large and the medium-large, the gym 4.0 is resurrecting on the local market, which is its unmistakable sign. To use a metaphor, if on the major highways today the articulated lorries move powerfully, in the city streets the shiny vans enter everywhere and arrive first. More agile, faster. And they carry fitness-ideas cooked and eaten at the moment, not membership below cost to defend themselves from internalisation. Battle lost from the start.


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Photo by Element5 Digital / Danielle Cerullo / Samuel Girven


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