Boutique fitness studios are expanding exponentially. Participation in boutiques doubled in one year from 21 percent in 2013 to 42 percent in 2014 according to research from IHRSA. And boutique chains have been adding new studios at a rate of 450 percent per year since 2010 according to the fitness-focused investment firm, Piper Jaffray.
A boutique fitness studio is a small, specialized gym or studio (800 to 3,500 square feet) that focuses on group exercise and specializes in one or two fitness areas. One of the most remarkable aspects of boutiques is their premium price tag. Popular group cycling studios charge roughly $32 per one-hour group class, and other boutiques average $20 or more per class.
What makes a person fork over $30 a class depends upon the individual. But nearly every participant will say it’s all about the experience with boutiques.
The boutique experience is transformative. It’s trendy, fun, intense and exercisers come out feeling like they performed at their peak with a bit of euphoria to carry them through the rest of the day.
Will the growth of boutiques continue?
While boutiques are growing because of the differentiated experience they offer, something else often goes unmentioned. Research shows the vast majority of people are willing to drive 3 miles or less (or travel 10 minutes or less) to a gym to workout. Proximity remains one of the most influential drivers of where people workout. The small footprint of boutiques enables them to pop up just about anywhere, which is precisely what they’ve done.
What does this mean for the traditional facility?
Lower priced clubs have less to worry about, as they fulfill a very different function along the fitness spectrum. However, gyms that appeal to boutiques’ target segment — exercisers who are willing to spend much more money on experience and environment — should pay attention.
How does a facility adapt?
Use under-utilized space by creating studio space that provides members with the variety offered by a standard health club. It’s important to not skimp on the experience. Focus on something trendy, invest in the atmosphere of exclusivity, and build hype. And, don’t be afraid to charge for it. Remember, boutiques charge premium prices and facilities can too.
Know exerciser demographics
If one facility houses a competitive group dynamic, make sure the experience is in a performance small group training setting that provides heavy-duty athletic rigs and racks. If it’s more social, make sure there’s synergy between the exercisers, décor, equipment, music, lighting, etc. This is the groundwork for creating an inviting experience.
Play to the facility’s strengths
Boutiques tend to lack variety and operate with a small footprint. Health clubs have the ability to provide more. For example, offering child care. 80 percent or more of boutique customers are female; many have children, yet small boutiques often do not have space for child care. Or, consider a specific demographic that doesn’t have great options tailored to them. For instance, focus on the booming active aging market that is underserved in many fitness facilities.
Mike Kavanagh has been with Life Fitness since 2014, leading strategy and business development for the company. Kavanagh worked in consulting, personal training, and with fitness start-ups prior to joining Life Fitness. For more information email Michael.Kavanagh@lifefitness.com.