Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Expanding Yoga market attracts another investor

FITNESS Following its success in the health club business, the owner of Alexander is cashing in on the Yoga craze with a new chain called taYOGA

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thanks to famous proponents such as pop divas Madonna and Jolin Tsai (蔡依林), the yoga craze in Taiwan continues to sizzle, prompting Alexander Health Club (亞力山大俱樂部) to launch an independent brand that offers lower membership fees to snatch a share of this fast-expanding market.

Candy Tang (唐雅君), chairwoman of the nation's largest fitness center chain with 20 clubs nationwide and 280,000 members, yesterday announced plans to build up the nation's biggest yoga chain -- taYOGA -- starting with five centers in Taiwan and China.

On Tuesday, its three yoga centers in Taipei, including one independent flagship store in the Xinyi District and two located in Alexander clubs in the Dazhi (大直) area and in front of Taipei Railway Station, will have soft openings.

Tang plans to open two more branches in Taichung and Kao-hsiung later this year.

The company has expanded the brand across the Strait with one in Shanghai's Xu Jia Hui district already open and another opening in the city's Gubei District soon.

"Yoga has become more and more popular over the past few years as people nowadays tend to lead a stressful life. For those who might feel frustrated doing combat or aerobic classes, yoga would be easier," Tang said.

Like California Fitness, Alexander has included yoga in its wide array of courses to give members a wider selection. But members' response showed that they preferred a more professional atmosphere and environment to practice the comparatively static exercise, she said.

The firm has invested more than NT$60 million (US$1.8 million) to set up facilities that would rival well-known brands, such as True Yoga, Space Yoga and Pure Yoga.

With the group's solid financial resources, taYOGA will start by offering competitive rates of NT$300 per hour during the first three months. Yoga members can also use Alexander's health clubs for exercise.

This compares with Space Yoga's charges of at least NT$399 per class, as stated in its Web site.

Tang expects sales next year from its health clubs and yoga centers to reach more than NT$1.7 billion in Taiwan and NT$600 million in China.

While there are no official statistics on the size of the local yoga market, True Yoga forecast in late 2005 that the nation's yoga population could reach 260,000, accounting for about 25 percent of those attending fitness centers. Seventy percent of these yoga students, or 180,000 people, would be in Taipei City.

With only between 30,000 and 50,000 people in Taipei frequenting yoga classes now, there is a large room for growth, the company said.

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