With its recent advancement of two places in the world rankings, Smart Fit Group is currently the third-largest fitness center company in its industry in terms of the number of facilities it owns. The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) reports that Smart Fit Group, the parent firm of the Smart Fit, Bio Ritmo, O2, Race Bootcamp, NS, Torq, Vidya and Jab House fitness franchises, now operates 509 locations, up from 390 in 2017.
Currently boasting 2 million customers, Smart Fit Group moved up three spots from the previous poll, when it rated eighth in terms of customers, with 1 1/2 million registered users, to now take fifth position.
Across 11 countries in Latin America — Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and Peru — the Smart Fit Group dominates the fitness industry.
Smart Fit, a relative newcomer to the fitness industry, combines low prices with a reliable infrastructure. The firm is still going strong, and it plans to expand its low-cost network that’s grown through cutting-edge technological innovation and a proven high-value/low-price (HVLP) model. One indicator of this is its ranking in terms of memberships: among the largest networks of fitness facilities in the world, which include companies based in the United States, Germany and China, Smart Fit is the sole representative from Latin America. And most Smart Fit locations are company-owned rather than franchised, further setting it apart from its competitors.
The appeal of the biggest fitness center chain in Latin America exposes the essence of what it takes to maintain rapid expansion. “The purpose of democratizing high-quality fitness means we not only give our clients quality infrastructure, but also access to training that yields results,” explains Edgard Corona, the CEO and founder of Smart Fit Group. “Our mission is to get the client to feel like they’re training in a first-class fitness center at an affordable price.”
According to Corona, the idea for Smart Fit was born after he had a conversation with a female patron at a café at the Conjunto Nacional business center on Avenida Paulista in São Paulo. At the time, Brazil had only two real options for fitness centers — a pricey high-end that was exemplified by the Bio Ritmo chain, which he already owned, and a low-end, which was represented by gyms that were more affordable but whose equipment was outdated and poorly maintained. She had asked him if he could deliver a high-end gym experience similar to what the Bio Ritmo brand provided, but for a low cost. The challenging request stuck with him, and soon, Smart Fit was born.
Today, Smart Fit Group operates under a horizontal management structure. All staff are allowed to actively participate in business-related projects, which boosts the company’s agility and has a tangible effect on the customer service they provide. “To be among the world’s leading fitness centers without losing our essential mission of democratizing high-quality fitness is our primary achievement. Our mission is to get the client to feel that he’s in a first-class fitness center at an affordable price,” Corona says.
There are now 21.6 million people who are associated with a fitness center network in Latin America — an increase of 1.7 million people from the previous survey. With an additional 511,000 customers throughout its whole network, Smart Fit Group is responsible for 30 percent of the expansion in this industry.
And this expansion is ongoing; the company’s sales increased by 40 percent during the first half of 2019, suggesting that it will continue to rise in the rankings.
More than 210,000 health clubs served 183 million members in 2018, generating US$94 billion in revenue for the global health club business, as reported by the 2019 IHRSA global report, which covers performance metrics for 65 markets across the globe.
“The fitness industry continues to help consumers lead healthier lives, as steady growth was recorded in key markets. The industry is on pace with IHRSA’s global initiative, announced last year, to reach 230 million health club members worldwide by 2030,” states Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products.
“Smart Fit’s strategy is to keep growing in regions that aren’t being served yet, bringing in more clients who have been unable to attend a quality fitness center. This strategy has enabled the Latin American market to reach 20 percent of the population going to fitness centers. In Brazil, for example, where there are very big differences in people’s purchasing power, only 4 percent of the population regularly goes to a gym, and we believe we can boost that to around 6 percent or percent. That is to say, we’ve still got a long way to grow in Latin America,” Edgard observes.
The 2018 IHRSA worldwide rating found Smart Fit Group to be outstanding across all criteria evaluated. The group ranked third in terms of the number of its own units, fifth in terms of customers (with 2 million members), and 11th in terms of sales (with annual sales of US$406 million).
During the coronavirus pandemic, individual membership growth of the company slowed, but Corona’s son, Diogo — Smart Fit Group’s COO — saw commercial interest in the company take off as firms took steps to have companies add gym memberships as a type of corporate perk. “This is a manifestation of changing customer focus,” noted Diogo Corona. “Because whatever is being demanded [of Smart Fit] to be delivered will be added.”