KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Evolution Wellness has purchased Malaysia’s popular no-contract fitness chain CHi Fitness. The addition of 14 new clubs means Evolution Wellness now owns and operates 170 of the wholly-owned clubs across Asia, making it the largest fitness club operator in the region.
“The addition of CHi Fitness to the Evolution Wellness portfolio complements the existing network of Celebrity Fitness and Fitness First clubs in Malaysia,” explains Rich Hutson, CEO of CHi Fitness.
“It presents us with opportunities to further influence and elevate the standards of the fitness industry in the country. With a wider network of 49 clubs covering the major cities in Peninsular Malaysia (including Penang, Johor Bahru, and the Klang Valley), it puts us in a strong position to offer our members even more choice, more value, more locations to train in, and more fitness experiences to choose from.”
Evolution Wellness has a history of acquisition. In June this year, the company acquired Fivelements, the integrated lifestyle company that owns the eco-wellness retreat Fivelements Bali and the recently opened holistic sports wellness retreat Fivelements Hong Kong. The addition of Fivelements marked the start of Evolution Wellness’ diversification of its portfolio from fitness into wellness.
Separate but together
For now, the three fitness club brands continue to operate separately and there is no change to membership packages or access levels at any of the clubs. Though, according to Hutson, this may change over time.
“For the most part, it is business as usual with all three brands. Evolution Wellness has every intention of retaining the CHi Fitness brand and it will continue to exist alongside Celebrity Fitness and Fitness First in the Malaysian fitness landscape. However, we will undertake some work to define the CHi Fitness brand’s unique selling points further to ensure it occupies a clear, defendable territory, complementing the two other fitness brands in the portfolio.”
CHi Fitness launched in 2008 as an offshoot from the global hotel fitness chain, Clark Hatch Fitness Centres. Over the last 10 years it has grown to include 14 clubs throughout Malaysia, predominantly in shopping malls. Two years ago, CHi X was launched to cater to a more premium membership, offering online class bookings, fingerprint access to clubs and signature functional training classes such as ‘The Grid’ and ‘Box & Burn’.
“The notion of fitness and living a healthy lifestyle is surging to the forefront of the public mindset in Asia, and indeed around the world,” notes Hutson. “So, our industry is naturally under the spotlight from an investment perspective, perhaps more than ever. There is a logic in pulling various strands together to improve the attractiveness of a given proposition.”
Future growth and development
Malaysia still has a low penetration rate of fitness clubs – only 1.04 per cent – so there are lots of opportunities for existing and new brands to scale up within the country and around the region.
“It’s no secret that the Asian fitness industry is fiercely competitive, only because there is so much untapped potential and room for growth,” remarks Hutson.
“Evolution Wellness has already taken the Celebrity Fitness brand to the Philippines and they are also committed to entering the Thai market. So, new markets for CHi Fitness would be a strategic option in the future, though for now, our immediate focus is here in Malaysia.”
Until the time for expansion comes, Huston is looking forward to the increased opportunities for the current business and staff. “Most importantly, the acquisition makes us an attractive employer of choice. We can now offer our people greater access to learning and development, career progression and mobility opportunities.”