NonStop Gym, Activ Fitness, INDIGO, Holmes Place, Harmony, L'Usine, Let's Go, Evo.... and the list goes on. For such a small city, Geneva has an incredible array of gyms ranging from exclusive to no frills, and the trend does not seem to be letting up...
Although Geneva has had fitness centers for many years, the trend truly began 20 years ago with the arrival of the UK high end fitness brand Holmes Place, on the top floor of the Globus department store, transforming fitness into a lifestyle and the club you chose to join a status symbol. As in other cities worldwide, people were becoming more conscious of the health benefits of working out and looked for ways to become more fit. Today, with 100 clubs in eight countries and some 300,000 members, Holmes Place undeniably remains a leader in Europe. They do, however, have competition in Geneva, essentially from two other exclusive clubs: L'Usine and INDIGO.
Not everyone, however, has the means to join a club costing close to, or over, Sfrs. 2,000 a year and middle range clubs, including Activ Fitness, which belongs to the Migros supermarket group and has been present in the German-speaking part of Switzerland since the 1990's, penetrated the Geneva market in 2012 and now has 14 clubs in the city, offering a range of workout equipment and group classes.
But there was a niche market still not covered – that of no frill gyms, already popular in other cities. Ellen Berg moved to Geneva from Sweden to work at consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble. After five years of frequenting a gym close to her home, Ellen was frustrated by the quality of services and the limited opening hours. She looked into other opportunities on offer and found a gap to be filled. Together with her business partner, Petra, she came up with the concept of NonStop Gym. They first opened in 2014 and now have seven clubs in Geneva and 15 in Switzerland. “Quality where it matters is our motto - We wanted to be selective in the areas we covered and do them well” says Ellen. “ We focus on what people are looking for: quality, cleanliness, accessibility and customer satisfaction at an affordable price”. NonStop Gym may not offer classes or a full-time staff presence, but it has modern facilities with high tech training equipment, fully-equipped changing rooms and a private section for women, which other gyms do not offer. Two major selling points are that it is open 24/7 and has a competitive membership plan: Sfrs. 49.-/month. Not surprisingly, since it has opened other local clubs have been emulating its business model and it is interesting to note that Holmes Place has now opened Evo, a low cost gym, to complement its high end clubs.
If you cross the border to neighboring Annemasse, however, there is an even more competitive offer. Netherlands-based Basic-Fit with 220 clubs in France and 700 in Europe is the largest chain on the continent. Memberships start at 19.99 Euros a month and offer a full range of training equipment, thanks to the Basic-Fit app. They also have virtual and live classes with a new class starting every 30 minutes. Virtual coaches are also available in all their clubs, as well as in-house personal trainers and even osteopaths.
So have these lower cost gyms become a threat to the higher end clubs' survival? The answer may be found in INDIGO, a Swiss-owned exclusive club in the heart of Geneva, which only opened in 2017 but has progressively increased its clientele, which even includes UN staff who take the time to commute across the city. As Club Manager Nils Lesch puts it “our members appreciate being part of a private club where they can not only train on the latest high tech equipment in a beautifully designed environment, but also meet and network with other members at our bi-monthly social events, such as our recent 'after workout party' ”. At INDIGO you may pay the price but you do get extra frills from free water and coffee to shower and hair gel in the elegant changing rooms, as well as a pleasant lounge area, spa facilities and a beautiful terrace overlooking the lake to relax after an intense workout. The club also offers a range of, what Nils Lesch calls “Mind and body courses” including yoga and pilates.
When asked if we have reached saturation point, all club managers are confident that there still remain opportunities to expand if you offer the right concept for the right audience. And as Ellen Berg points out “statistics show that only 13% of the Swiss population is a member of a fitness club – compared to 25% in Scandinavia”. It seems that with the rising popularity in keeping fit and our quest for a better lifestyle, gyms, whether exclusive or no frills, still have a bright future ahead of them.