Curves ahead... [p. 17]

Curves International, the largest women-only fitness franchise in the world, is planning to open between 75 and 100 franchise clubs across Israel over the next 18 months, in a move that would make the fitness club, the country's largest. "We see a lot of business potential for the Curves concept of the fast-yet effective workout to suit Orthodox or Arab women in Israel or any woman who wants to work out effectively in her own time and speed and without being limited to a timetable," Gary Heavin, founder and CEO of Curves International told The Jerusalem Post during his first trip to Israel. Curves, this year, opened its first four franchises in Israel - in Tel Aviv, Ramat Aviv, Ra'anana and Jerusalem. According to a study by Business Data Israel, there are 2,000 fitness clubs in Israel, of which 500 are professional clubs. The number of gym memberships is estimated at 600,000. The market leader in the fitness sector is the Holmes Place fitness chain with 17 clubs across the country. "Not so long ago, women were treated as second-class members in a gym, as they [the gyms] were designed for a male-friendly environment and character," said Heavin. "At the time, my wife and I saw the need and opportunity to create a workout environment and concept, which would suit and entice any type of women, independent of age, fitness or time restrictions to exercise and thereby prevent deteriorating health and potential illness." Constrasting the trend of modern, fashionable and glamorous looking exercise clubs populated by herds of designer-garbed, hard-bodied 20-somethings, Curves clubs have a stripped down, no-frills look built on a concept of a power workout with no men, no mirrors and no make-up. "We have members aged 12 to 83 years old, many of them are foreigners, Anglo-Saxons, Americans, who often know Curves from elsewhere," said Orly Gilat, franchisee of the first Curves club in Israel, which opened in Tel Aviv in April. "We also see an increasing number of Orthodox women joining the club as we are closed on Shabbat." At Curves clubs, hydraulic resistance machines are placed in a circle around the room exercising according to a 30-minute routine that entails spending 30 seconds on a machine, moving over to a recovery pad for 30 seconds of walking in place and then on to the next machine. The rotation continues along 12 machines and 12 pads. "Our membership is growing by word of mouth and 'a friend brings a friend' incentives as it is more fun to work out with a friend," said Gilat. "The circuit setting in a circle encourages meeting other members, which is creating a strong women's network and a sense of community at the club." Since its founding, 14 years ago, Curves has grown from its first franchise in Texas to nearly 10,000 locations and about 4 million members worldwide generating annual revenues of $2 billion. Curves clubs can be found in over 42 countries, including the US, Canada, Europe, South America, The Caribbean, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan.