Plans for new chain of boutique gyms in housing estates

True Group will be taking on heartland gyms later this year with the launch of a new line of boutique clubs in housing estates.

This follows other chains with smaller neighbourhood gyms that have been set up here over the years, a scene that observers note is saturated.

At 3,000 sq ft to 5,000 sq ft each, True's boutique clubs are less than a quarter the size of its current gyms, which are around 20,000 sq ft each.

Membership fees will be 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than True's existing fees, which start from $89 a month, said its chief executive Patrick Wee.

Existing True members can top up a small fee to join the new chain, which will be under a different brand, he added.

True plans to open 10 such clubs in the next 18 months, with the first three set to be up and running by the year end.

The clubs may not have the "full bells and whistles" such as a yoga or aerobic studio, but will have a new feature not found in True's other gyms - electrical muscular stimulation machines, also known as EMS machines, said Mr Wee.

Users wear a suit with electrodes plugged into a machine. The machine will transmit electrical pulses through the user's muscles to contract them, giving "the equivalent of a one-hour workout in 20 minutes", he said.

Smaller gyms have been sprouting up and growing their market share in recent years.

Local gym chain Gymmboxx, which started in 2010, now has seven gyms here. A standard 12-month membership for adults costs $40 a month.

United States-based chain Anytime Fitness, which opened its first 24-hour club here in Woodlands in 2013, now has more than 30 gyms.

Mr Wee said: "I like to think that we embrace competition. If there is a market for competition to be there, there is a market for me to be there too."

The new gyms will open for 18 hours a day, with the option of keeping them open longer if there is demand, he added.

Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim said True, with its expertise in running gyms and ability to leverage on economies of scale, will be able to survive in the heartland's saturated fitness market.

A smaller gym will also be more manageable, compared with a big unit that requires more equipment and manpower, she added.

"A neighbourhood is a good place for a gym. It is convenient and near users' homes," she said.

"Yes, the market is saturated, but some other players will always enter the market. It is always going to be survival of the fittest."

Melissa Lin