Bucharest fitness market: competitive and fragmented

Newsroom 12/02/2020 | 15:28

Studies show that 50 percent of the people who sign up at a regular fitness gym, where they work out by themselves, give up within the first three months. Moreover, 20 percent of them never even use the subscription. Romania ranks second in Europe when it comes to sedentarism and third in terms of the share of overweight population. And the sedentary lifestyle can also be observed among business people.

By Romanita Oprea


Only 15 percent of those who exercise by themselves at the gym succeed in reaching their objectives, while the rest need the support of a trainer or group classes, according to information shared with us by Bodyshape Transformation Centre representatives. Irina Alionte (photo), the founder of Bodyshape Transformation Centre, also explained why entrepreneurs can be more successful if they engage in more physical activity, and why employees are healthier and more efficient when they exercise more often.

“As an entrepreneur, it is really important not to get sick in order to be able to manage your business full time. At the same time, it’s very important that your employees are healthy, happy and thankful in order to be able to get involved in the well-being of the business and be more productive. There are numerous benefits to exercise (gets us in shape, prevents the brain from aging, helps the heart work better, gives us cleaner skin, higher resistance to stress, better sleep, as well as a higher desire to enjoy life, be happier, more productive, and more motivated). Ultimately, you will live a longer and better life,” explains Irina Alionte.

At the same time, there are also five positive effects exercising can have on one’s business: higher ROI (return of investment) and VOI (value of investment), fewer medical leave days, increased employee loyalty towards the company, and stronger social cohesion in teams or departments. These are some of the reasons why many companies choose to invest in physical activity and may even have their own gyms for employees. There are also companies asking the representatives of their favourite fitness centres to manage those in-house gyms or to organise motivational team buildings.

Bodyshape Transformation Centre is located in the Aviatiei area of Bucharest. In 2018, hundreds of people reached their physical goals and shed over 1.5 tonnes of fat, through 45-minute workouts done three times a week. The centre is also known for its 6-Week Challenge, a programme built on three pillars: guided training, personalised nutrition and motivational coaching.

But how competitive is the Romanian fitness market? In Irina Alionte’s opinion, it’s still in its infancy compared to those in more developed countries. Surely, there are fitness centres in every major city of the country, but the market itself is quite under-developed in general.

“Reports state that only 4 percent of our population has a gym membership, as compared to the 11 percent European average, which suggests that there is still plenty of room for growth and a lot of potential for providers to get more people to be active. The market potential and Romanians’ increasingly sedentary lifestyle can be attractive for those who are able to seize the business opportunity, so it’s no wonder that the number of fitness clubs increases by approximately 10 percent annually, with new gyms opening up to the public,” said the Bodyshape representative. On the other hand, she points out, the landscape is quite different when it comes to the fitness market in Bucharest, which has become increasingly competitive recently.

“Fortunately, Romanian people are becoming more interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating well and working out. They have started to understand the importance of a balanced lifestyle and the benefits of nutrition and exercise in all aspects of their life. Of course, more interest from potential customers leads to an increase in the number of gyms and fitness programmes – on one side we have gym chains that are opening more venues and on the other, we see new fitness programmes trying to gain a prominent place on the fitness market,” said Valentin Vasile, owner and founder of Revvolution.

With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, Valentin Vasile is a certified fitness trainer and sports nutrition specialist who has helped thousands of people get in shape and develop a healthy lifestyle. He developed the Revvolution programme more than 8 years ago, as a place where people could get everything they needed in order to attain their fitness objectives with a friendly approach. The idea came from his desire for more people to have access to a scientific approach to a healthy lifestyle, fitness and weight loss management, with the firm belief that healthy eating, exercise and permanent support and motivation are all essential.

Irina Alionte adds that there are many people who are starting to pursue professional reconversion to become fitness trainers or nutritionists and offer their services to potential customers. But, in her opinion, experience and tradition are very important when it comes to providing such services to the population. The more studying one does, the more prepared they will be to develop a personalised approach that will help their clients achieve results with no risks.

The Romanian fitness market is dominated by one big player which launched in 2000 (World Class), with a strong presence of 33 centres around the country and 60,000 members, as well as several smaller, but well-positioned players.

In this landscape, Bodyshape Transformation Centre was born 5 years ago, opening up a unique niche – the boutique fitness centre. During this time, Bodyshape has helped over 2,000 people to burn nearly 5 tonnes of fat and lose 30,000 centimeters from their waistlines.

Revvolution is a premium fitness programme that offers integrated services for customers – its members have access to workouts, nutrition services, coaching and fitness, kinesitherapy or nutrition workshops, so they can achieve a healthy lifestyle. According to its representatives, everything they do is science-based and has been confirmed by the results achieved by thousands of clients. The first version of the programme was created by Valentin Vasile in 2012 and it offered clients a 360-degree approach to nutrition and exercise.

“Because we operate on a competitive market, we try to bring the best to our customers each year. In 2016 we moved to a bigger space in central Bucharest, offering more than 800 sqm of workout studios, changing rooms and coaching spaces. We’ve gradually added new components to our programme and now our customers can benefit from the opinions of three nutritionists and eight fitness trainers, a kinesiotherapist and an endocrinologist. We also organise numerous workshops for our customers – our purpose is not only to help them lose weight, but to try to teach them how to have a healthy lifestyle and avoid potential health risks,” Valentin Vasile explains.

So far, Revvolution’s biggest challenge has been educating the public that weight loss needs a healthy approach and it should not be about fad diets that can do more harm than good. The company tries to publish a lot of quality content on its blog and social media profiles and explain to people what healthy lifestyles, healthy workouts and healthy nutrition are and why its trainers rely so much on this 360-degree approach.

An opinion shared by Alionte as well, who also adds that they have always been keen on keeping the Bodyshapers community very closely connected. The community comprises very vibrant, authentic, positive and open-minded people who have decided to make the most out of their lives on all levels – physically, emotionally, socially, etc. “Our mission is to help busy, successful people – who are not necessarily passionate about fitness – get back into shape in the shortest time possible, regain their confidence and feel proud of their results. Besides the group workouts guided by experienced trainers, our concept combines a nutritional plan with coaching on motivation and mindset. Our community is made up of 75 percent women and 25 percent men. The members of the Bodyshape Transformation Centre community are mainly young professionals, managers, executive directors and entrepreneurs, but also several well-known celebrities. Most of them are busy people who juggle their careers, families and social lives, as well as other responsibilities,” Alionte adds.


2020 expectations

“We expect that even more people will understand the importance of exercise and good nutrition in their lives and come and try our fitness programme. We’ll also try to reach further markets through our online programs, designed for our customers outside of Bucharest, new mothers who cannot go to the gym but want to get back into shape or frequent travellers. Unfortunately, as previous studies have shown, only 6 percent of Romanians had a gym membership in recent years and most of them lived in big cities. We hope that the numbers grow, since it is easier to prevent than to treat, and working out and eating healthy can keep you safe from a lot of medical issues. It is a good thing that the government understood the importance of this market and lowered VAT for fitness services last year; more people working out means fewer people seeking medical assistance,” said Valentin Vasile.

Currently, 80 percent of Revvolution’s customers are women and 20 percent are men, based in Bucharest, interested in having a healthy lifestyle or trying to achieve fitness/weight loss goals.

“Romanians are also known for caring about their physical appearance and wanting to look great all the time – so more and more of them are starting to work out in order to have a more athletic body. But those who were already into gyms are now looking for a more personalised experience; they need constant support in their journeys and they want custom-made solutions for their problems. And that’s exactly why we are here. Our turnover for 2018 was around EUR 500,000, slightly higher in 2019, and we expect an increase of at least 10 percent in 2020,” added Revvolution’s owner.

Bodyshape Transformation Centre’s 2020 plans include the launch of a workout programme for teenagers and one for stay at-home moms, as well as another centre in Bucharest. Both categories of customers will be invited to join tailored programs which will respond to their particular fitness needs.

“In 2018 our turnover was EUR 305,000 and we closed 2019 with EUR 480,000 in turnover, which means our business has grown by approximately 60 percent! In 2019 we managed to grow our membership base at our flagship centre, but another part of the revenue growth is the fact that we have expanded by opening a second centre in Bucharest – “Bodyshape Gym” – in partnership with the biggest employer in Romania, Group Renault. It was an honour to have been chosen as the official fitness provider for such a respectable brand and innovative corporation, which decided to offer its 3,000 employees the benefit of experiencing Bodyshape workouts right at their headquarters. This partnership helps us double our impact, double the number of amazing transformations and kilograms lost for people in Bucharest, making us even more accessible to those who really need to achieve long-lasting results in a fun environment,” said Bodyshape’s owner.

2020 starts with a transaction on the market, as Florina Onetiu, the main shareholder of the Happiness centre (Centrul Fericirii), the first integrative transformation centre in Romania, announced the sale of the majority stake to the FIT4YOU aesthetics and wellness network. Opened in 2015, Centrul Fericirii brought a new concept to the Romanian wellbeing market, which generated a turnover that placed it among the top companies in this industry. For 2019, the company reported a turnover of over RON 2 million, with over 10,000 clients and a net profitability of 20 percent.

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