Even as Singapore-owned True Group fitness and wellness chain announced aggressive expansion plans in China, it has abruptly closed clubs in Thailand and Malaysia, leaving its close to 50,000 Singapore members worried if they too will be left in the lurch.
Last Monday, The Straits Times quoted the chain's group chief executive, Mr Patrick Wee, on his plans to expand into China with 20 new clubs over the next three years, and a possible stock exchange listing.
By the end of the week, it was a very different story. The group abruptly shut its two remaining True Fitness outlets in Bangkok on Friday and the following day, it shuttered all its True Fitness and True Spa centres in Malaysia.
The group has 47,000 members in Singapore, and some of them are beginning to wonder if its outlets here will be next.
The True Group was established in Singapore in 2004 and has 10 outlets here, including eight True Fitness outlets. It also has centres in Taiwan and China.
A company spokesman maintained on Friday that nothing was amiss. "The Singapore, Taiwan and China partnership is a totally different legal entity from Thailand. The terms of the partnership are specifically to grow the businesses in Singapore, China and Taiwan. As such, the closure in Thailand will not affect the Singapore outlets or the planned expansion (in China) as announced.
The True Group has 47,000 members in Singapore and some of them are beginning to wonder if its outlets here will be next. The group was established in Singapore in 2004 and has 10 outlets here, including eight True Fitness outlets. It also has centres in Taiwan and China.
"In Thailand, we are a minority partner and the past years have proved challenging, and unfortunately the businesses are no longer financially viable due to evolving market conditions."
Regarding the closure in Malaysia, True Fitness gave similar reasons on its Malaysia website, saying "the businesses are no longer financially viable due to evolving market conditions".
It said it was unable to refund its Malaysian customers in cash, adding that arrangements had been made with another fitness centre, Chi Fitness, for customers to continue their prepaid packages. It said it was looking to make a similar arrangement for its spa customers with a "reputable" provider.
A True Group spokesman told The Sunday Times yesterday that it is business as usual in Singapore. It could not respond to other queries by press time.
But some members here are uneasy, and worry that True Fitness would follow the footsteps of gym chain California Fitness, which closed last July, prompting some 600 complaints about prepaid membership fees and under-utilised gym sessions. California Fitness closed all its outlets suddenly, a week after 12 of its gyms in Hong Kong shut due to debt.
Ms A. Lim, 42, an executive in the building industry and aformer California Fitness member, said: "I'm a bit worried that True Fitness gyms here would close too. I may consider reducing the duration of future membership contracts, but I won't stop having them as I don't want to stop exercising."
Recruitment consultant Cynthia Teo, 28, said: "I don't want another California Fitness situation to happen, so I think reassurance from the (True Fitness) management should be given. I'll probably ask them about it and find out what my membership rights are if it closes down."
•Additional reporting by Melissa Lin