Hitting the gym can hit your wallet

Getting fit doesn't come cheap in Singapore, according to a survey of products and services around the world. Industry players and experts say gym fees are higher in Singapore because of the higher cost of doing business and higher disposable income. Prices are also determined by a gym's positioning, branding and target audience.
PHOTO: Hitting the gym can hit your wallet

SINGAPORE - It may be more expensive to work out in a gym in Singapore than in most other cities, due to the higher cost of doing business.

People in Singapore also tend to have more disposable income, which affects the way a gym brands, positions and prices itself, said industry players and experts.

A Deutsche Bank survey last month found that a one-month gym membership in the business district costs US$131.79 (S$165). This ranked Singapore as the second-costliest for gym-goers in 33 cities, trailing only Moscow, where the fee is US$142.49. It beats New York City (US$118), London (US$115.96) and Hong Kong (US$103.26).

The survey was part of a larger study which compared prices of various products and services around the world. Data was collated from prices posted online and secondary sources.

Virgin Active, which opened its first gym here in One Raffles Place last year, charges more here than at its branches in the region. A flexible membership here costs $42.50 a week, compared to $24.62 in Bangkok, $33.78 in Melbourne and $36.11 in Sydney.

"Our membership prices are pegged to the cost of living and therefore, cost of doing business in each country," said its operations director of South-east Asia, Mr Christian Mason.

At True Fitness, which has eight centres here, a 12-month gym membership costs about $130 a month here, but only $91 a month in Thailand. This is mainly because of the rental and manpower costs here, its spokesman said.

At Fitness First, however, the monthly membership fee of $165 in Singapore is comparable to that in London, which stands at $168.

Mr Anthony Tottman, managing director of Fitness First Singapore, said comparing markets "can be a challenge" because of variations in economic conditions, products and the stage of development of the industry.

Even within Singapore, with the fitness industry expanding in tandem with the economy, "there is now a wide array of offerings catering to a broad range of consumer budgets", he noted.

Mr Amos Tan, a marketing and retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, said prices are determined by a gym's positioning, branding and target audience. A gym that is new to the market will refer to the prices of existing players when setting its fees, he said.

"Fitness First, for example, has a mid- to high-level positioning. Its gyms in the business district target white-collar workers and those in senior positions with more disposable income," he said. "A new gym that wants to brand itself as premium here will have to use that pricing as a benchmark."

Associate producer and gym member Charlene Chan, 23, is not bothered by the survey results.

She said: "I won't compare the prices in Singapore to those in other countries. I compare those charged by gyms here, and I'm okay with the price I'm paying."

This article was first published on June 7, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.