Snap Fitness to Open Gyms in Japan

Chanhassen-based Snap Fitness aims to open 300 gyms in Japan over the next few years, with a flagship location in Tokyo slated to open this year.

The global gym franchise, which now counts more than 2,000 locations in 26 countries, has picked Global Fitness Japan Co. Ltd. to serve as “master franchisee” for its gyms in Japan. That means Global Fitness Japan will open clubs in Japan and later franchise locations to local business owners there.


“They’ll essentially lead the franchising effort in Japan,” said Weldon Spangler, CEO of Lift Brands, Snap’s parent company. “The reason for doing that is because the group knows the local customs and tastes much better than we would.”

Snap is pushing forward with the effort even as coronavirus spreads around the globe. Spangler noted that Snap and Global Fitness Japan began discussions back in spring of last year.

“The deal itself was done in December,” Spangler said. He’s nonetheless optimistic about business prospects in Japan, where only 3 percent of the country’s 126 million people have a gym membership.

“What we know about Japanese consumers is that they’re very health conscious to begin with,” said Spangler, who previously worked as a VP of Starbucks in Japan. “I think that there hasn’t been a supply of gyms. … and I think the idea of going to a gym is a fairly new idea. As we create the opportunity, I think we’ll have members who latch on.”

Social media and word-of-mouth marketing will help spread the message, Spangler believes.

Last month, Global Fitness Japan visited Snap’s headquarters in Minnesota to get a better sense of the company’s operating model.

This won’t be Snap’s first venture in Asia. The company currently operates gyms in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Snap also has a sizable presence in New Zealand, Spangler noted.