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Monday
Jun222015

Christophe Andanson: President, French Health and Racquet Sportsclub Association

To start with, please tell us about your “former lives” as an Olympic wrestler and television personality.

From 1967 to 1984, I competed in both freestyle and Greco-Roman disciplines, something of a rarity. When I was an Olympic candidate, the French minister of sport sent me to train in Madison, Wisconsin, where I learned to speak English and discovered weight training on Nautilus equipment. I competed in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984. In Moscow, I took fourth place, losing the bronze medal by a narrow margin. I won the bronze in the European championships.

For three years, I hosted a morning TV show, and then produced home videos with the Warner Company, and, eventually, released 14 on my own.

In 1983, you and your wife, Claudy, opened your first Vit’ Halles health club in Paris, and then, in 1996, an equipment distribution company, Planet Fitness.

That’s right. I met Claudy in 1981, when she was doing aerobics at a club. We both decided that, for us, fitness was the future, and chose to share our lives. After opening our first club, we grew the business to 10 locations, before selling it in 2006. In 1990, I began organizing aerobic championships, and founded the Sport Aerobic Federation. Next, I began distributing home fitness equipment, and, in 2000, we moved to Aix-en-Provence. Today, Planet Fitness handles commercial brands such as TRX, STOTT PILATES, ViPR, and Trigger Point.

And, the French market—is it similar to others?

Yes, although, here, trends tend to start five years later than elsewhere. Right now, the budget clubs are close to peaking, while the micro/boutique studios are just emerging. With 67 million inhabitants, France is the second-largest market in Europe, and has great potential, as the recent Mondial de Fitness expo in Paris demonstrated.

As Phillip Mills, the president of Les Mills International, once observed, “France has fashion, fabulous restaurants, but no beautiful fitness clubs.” The people who wear the latest clothes and frequent high-end establishments are a niche market that demands a tony, high-quality ambience; clubs need to focus more on architecture and lights to attract them.

You’re also the president and CEO of Les Mills Euromed. How did that come about?

In 1996, Phillip and I discovered that we both had a passion for sports and wine, and France became the third country, after Australia and New Zealand, to offer the licensed Body Pump program. We’ve expanded to Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Belgium, Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey, and formed a separate company, Les Mills Euromed.

In October, the annual IHRSA European Congress will be held in Marseille. You founded FHRSA—would you tell us about it and your involvement with IHRSA?

I’ve been to every IHRSA event in the U.S. since the convention in Phoenix in 1998. My first European Congress was Berlin in 2004. I encourage operators to share best practices with their international and French colleagues, à la IHRSA. With the association’s support, we founded FHRSA, and organize groups to attend IHRSA events. We’re proud and honored to have this year’s congress in Marseille.

At last fall’s congress in Amsterdam, you spoke about the future. What will we face in the next five years?

Technology is rapidly disrupting the market. Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft are all investing in health and fitness. It’s a bit scary. We can embrace technology, or risk losing members to health club alternatives.

 

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