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Global Management Forum 2019

Anytime Fitness to open thousands of gyms in Japan over decade

President Dave Mortensen looks to tap into surging Asian health awareness

Anytime Fitness co-founder and President Dave Mortensen discusses his company's Asian strategy on the sidelines of the Nikkei Global Management Forum.

TOKYO -- U.S. gym franchise Anytime Fitness is gearing up for a major growth spurt in Japan, where it runs 600 clubs and aims to have more than 3,000 a decade from now, co-founder and President Dave Mortensen revealed in an interview in Tokyo.

Anytime Fitness offers 24/7 access to its gyms, making it an attractive option for busy young professionals. Since its establishment in the U.S. in 2002, it has quickly grown into a global chain, with over 5,000 locations worldwide.

In Japan, according to Mortensen, the company's members have an average age of 32 -- much younger than the average of all gym-goers in the country, which is 60.

"We can say that we have created a whole new market in Japan," Mortensen said of his company's youthful clientele. He was in Tokyo to speak at the Nikkei Global Management Forum.

Japan was not an easy market to penetrate, however. Less than 4% of the population goes to fitness clubs -- a number that Anytime Fitness saw as both a challenge and a chance when it arrived in 2010.

"The same lifestyle [that causes the high obesity rate in the U.S.] is starting to expand across the globe, in China, and the U.K., and now in Japan, one of the healthiest countries today, and many other countries," Mortensen said.

But Mortensen is optimistic that growing awareness of the health risks of sedentary living will boost his company's customer base in Japan. He expects the number of people who go to a commercial gym could double to 8% of the population in the next five years.

Besides Japan, Anytime Fitness is also eyeing South Korea and Indonesia, but Mortensen said the Asian market with the biggest potential is China. The country's combination of less than 1% gym patronage and a growing middle class means there is plenty of room to grow.

"China is probably the one market that could be larger than the U.S.," Mortensen said. "But we're still formulating the product that we want there before we go to scale."

The company currently has six gyms in Shanghai and is aiming for 100 locations over the next five years.

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