European News: l’Orange Bleue, AF Benelux, & Aggregators

    The fitness industry continues to grow in Europe with the expansions of l'Orange Bleue and Anytime Fitness. Meanwhile, aggregators are shaking things up.

    France’s l’Orange Bleue Surpasses the 400 Mark

    l’Orange Bleue, based in Rennes, France, which was founded some 20 years ago by CEO Thierry Marquer, is now, with more than 400 clubs, one of the country’s leading operators.

    The company, which had just six locations in 2005, embarked the following year on a dual franchising/ownership strategy, positioning itself at the threshold between the low- and medium-priced segments.

    Right now, the 2018 European Health & Fitness Market Report, published by EuropeActive and Deloitte, ranks l’Orange Bleue 14th in terms of membership, with an estimated 375,000 members.

    The brand has three training concepts. One of its newest is “Mon Coach Wellness,” which is designed to address the health and well-being of those 50 and older, and involves consultations with dietitians and osteopaths. In addition, last year marked the start of the chain’s European expansion, with two clubs opening in Barcelona, Spain.

    And the future?

    “l’Orange Bleue plans to increase the number of clubs in France to 700, to 100 in Italy, and to 100 in Spain, with 30% club-owned and 70% franchised,” responds Marquer.

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    Thierry Marquer, CEO of l'Orange Bleue.

    Anytime Fitness Benelux Aims to Hit 100 Clubs­

    Anytime Fitness Benelux, headquartered in Maastricht, in The Netherlands, will become the company’s second-largest European market, after the U.K., with close to 100 clubs. Currently, Belgium and The Netherlands, combined, have 72 clubs.

    Anytime Fitness, co-founded by Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen, and now based in Woodbury, MN, is one of the few U.S. franchisors with a strong international presence. It operates over 250 clubs in Europe, with more than 200,000 members in countries such as the U.K., Spain, Italy, Poland, and Sweden, as well as in Belgium and The Netherlands.

    For the first time, Anytime Fitness has been ranked among the top 30 operators on the basis of number of club members, according to the European Health & Fitness Market Report.

    Anytime Fitness operates in the mid-market segment, and its clubs are designed to be convenient and affordable. They’re situated in city centers in very visible locations.

    Recently, Anytime Fitness Benelux, headed by Petro Hameleers, has launched the Anytime Fitness App, which allows members to take part in instructor-led classes from home.

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    Anytime Fitness Centrum in Rotterdam.

    Fitness Aggregators Make Their Mark in Europe

    A growing number of fitness aggregators have been taking center stage across Europe and are shaking up the fitness market.

    Fitness aggregators offer companies and their employees the opportunity to engage in various physical fitness activities at a network of facilities by offering discounted access via cards, vouchers, and mobile payments.

    In Poland, for example, half of the country’s clubs now utilize benefit cards provided by Benefit Systems, a Polish firm that offers the same type of card in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. In all, the company has distributed about 1 million of them.

    And, while Europe is home to a number of established aggregators—such as Urban Sports Club, based in Germany; and Smartum, in Finland—the fitness sector is also seeing companies from outside the industry join the fray.

    In February, Sodexo, a French multinational company in the food services and facilities management sector, purchased GymforLess, the Spanish fitness aggregator, which provides access to over 1,000 gyms in that country. It’s now looking to extend into countries such as Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia.

    In Bulgaria, Sodexo joined the local fitness and health association BAHF, and has 45,000 sports cards in circulation. “We intend to double that number in the short term by making sure that we have partnerships with all of the important local fitness chains,” says Victor Cosconel, the CEO of Sodexo Bulgaria.

    Author avatar

    Florian Cartoux @florian_cartoux

    Florian Cartoux is director of the IHRSA European office in Brussels, Belgium. He's is in charge of growing IHRSA's membership in Europe, and attendance at IHRSA events. Being fluent in French, German, and English, Florian spends the best part of his time visiting the four corners of Europe meeting members and prospects. In his spare time, he tries to find time to play the drums, and be a good dad with his two daughters.