By Aliwassa Pathnadabutr,
Managing Director of CBRE Thailand
SPECIAL TO THE NATION
CBRE Research expects to see further expansion by active wear retailers and fitness studios in Asia Pacific and the emergence of new players. Particularly, specialised programmes and boutique operators will be ideally positioned to capitalise on strong demand for consumption and lifestyle fitness in emerging Asia.
Higher rates of participation in sports and fitness, and generally active lifestyles, is driving strong demand for sports and active apparel. Consumers are increasingly demanding products that are both practical for exercise and fashionable leading to the development of what is becoming known as “athleisure” wear. Examples include yoga pants, “jeggings”, and fashionable sweat shirts that can be worn for both exercise and on social occasions. According to CBRE Research, sales figures reported by four major active wear companies show that sales in Asia Pacific has grown faster in past few years. In 2014, growth was around 5 per cent , but shot up to 16 per cent by 2016. According to another report from Ken Research, athletic wear is expected to grow at around 16 per cent through 2019. The growth in personal health and fitness has been so great that traditional clothing brands and some luxury brands have even begun developing an active wear category or created subsidiary brands to sell their activewear line of clothes and gear.
As e-commerce channels become the new norm for consumers, retail outlets must evolve to remain meaningful in the buying process. Once merely places to see and buy products, stores are being repositioned as locations where consumers can properly trial the products they are considering and learn about the full range of goods offered. For example, some sports stores, such as Adidas in Mega Bangna, have installed treadmills in their stores to allow customers to try running with the shoes they are considering buying. Personal customisation is also expected to grow and will be a key advantage of having a physical presence in an omni-channel retail solution.
As for fitness centres, demand for space has traditionally been led by large occupiers, but recent years have seen the growth of specialised and boutique fitness gyms. These are gyms that cater towards specific types of fitness training such as the CrossFit training, Muay Thai, Pilates, yoga, and dancing studios, among others, have been growing in numbers. The benefit is that they do not require as much space as a traditional fully fitted, multi-purpose gyms which means they can be built into more traditional retail spaces.
Not only are we seeing boutique operator growth, we are also seeing a growing number of international fitness chains entering the Thai market for the first time such as Anytime Fitness, Jetts 24 Hour Fitness, and Virgin Active; which points to the higher interest in health and fitness from the Thai population.
As landlords of retail centres continue to shift their locations to become more experiential, many are embracing the health and wellness trend as part of an overall focus of positioning shopping centres as community hubs in their placemaking efforts. Some landlords are beginning to introduce “active zones” for customers to enjoy such as running/speed walking tracks, biking zones, or skating areas as part of their own active-lifestyle placemaking efforts. We have seen this trend in mixed-use projects such as Whizdom 101, among others. Other innovations include co-wellness space, which allows freelance fitness instructors to rent space and host pop-up classes in a fully equipped studio where followers can reserve classes online. This model helps improve space utilisation and flexibility for both the landlord and instructor.
Health and wellness has been and is expected to continue be grow in Thailand. Fitness wear companies will continue to enjoy growing demand; however, they will have to adapt their retail store strategies as omnichannel buyers will look to physical stores to experience the product rather than just purchase it there.
The millennial shift towards engaging in fitness is evidenced further by the number of specialised sports studios and international fitness chains opening branches in Thailand, a market they had previously not entered.