Members in a huff as Vivafit gym shuts down

Vivafit closed its branches in Marine Parade (left), Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place last Saturday. The Clementi branch was closed last month. However, two franchise branches in Bukit Merah Central and Beach Road are still open.
Vivafit closed its branches in Marine Parade (above), Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place last Saturday. The Clementi branch was closed last month. However, two franchise branches in Bukit Merah Central and Beach Road are still open.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

It closes 4 outlets abruptly and says it will file for bankruptcy; 2 franchise branches still open

Women's gym Vivafit has shut four of its outlets, leaving its members worked up and seeking compensation. This comes as clubs made it to the list of the 10 industries that faced the most complaints last year - with fitness clubs accounting for the bulk of them.

Vivafit's management sent members an e-mail last Thursday, two days before three outlets closed, explaining that they "have no choice but to make the painful and difficult, but also necessary decision to file for bankruptcy".

The e-mail, which was seen by The Straits Times, also said that they were "out of money".

The branches at Tanjong Pagar, Raffles Place and Marine Parade closed last Saturday, while the one in Clementi closed last month.

Two other franchise branches in Bukit Merah Central and Beach Road are still open.

MANPOWER PROBLEMS

As we tried to grow the business, these challenges got bigger. It has continued to negatively affect our revenues, and we are now at a point where we have no other choice but to close and wind up the company.

MR JONAS OGREN, who opened Vivafit in Singapore.

Ms Geraldine Lee, 46, a polytechnic adjunct lecturer who frequented Vivafit's Marine Parade outlet, is one of the affected members.She said: "I am so shocked because the outlet was always so crowded whenever I went. There was no sign that they were going to close."

She added that some seniors frequented that particular outlet.

Ms Lee, who bought her package for $1,500, has filed a police report.

Figures from the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) showed that Vivafit typically attracted fewer than 10 complaints a year.

Meanwhile, fitness clubs accounted for 90 per cent of the more than 600 complaints filed against clubs last year. This pushed the industry into Case's top 10 most-complained-about category for the first time in 10 years. There were about 40 more complaints last year compared to in 2014. The most common complaint was misrepresentation.

The True Group and California Fitness, including its owner J.V. Fitness, were the two clubs that drew the highest number of complaints.

California Fitness recently closed its Orchard branch, while the True Group closed its Ocean Financial Centre branch.

In response to questions from The Straits Times, Mr Jonas Ogren, who opened Vivafit in Singapore, said it had faced manpower problems.

"As we tried to grow the business these challenges got bigger. It has continued to negatively affect our revenues, and we are now at a point where we have no other choice but to close and wind up the company."

He acknowledged that the closure was abrupt. He added that while there could be no guarantees, they group was exploring possible solutions - either by re-opening one or more gyms under a different management, or finding alternative locations for members to work out.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said: "We want to highlight to consumers that it is extremely important to read the terms and conditions of the contract carefully before signing up for membership packages at fitness clubs, especially for the long term."

•Additional reporting by Tiffany Fumiko Tay

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Members in a huff as Vivafit gym shuts down'. Print Edition | Subscribe