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The Rise Of Boutique Fitness Post COVID

May 3, 2021

An inside view from our COO, Kory Angelin

In 2017, boutique brands made up 40% of the market, up 121% in four years, compared with 18% growth for big gyms. Boutique consumers pay twice as much a month as consumers of big gyms, like Planet Fitness, Crunch or Gold's Gym. Streaming home fitness is also growing quickly (According to a study conducted by CNBC).  This tells us that the trend for the past few years has been that boutique fitness is offering something more attractive than big box gyms.  Let us take a look at 2 key aspects both from operations, as well as, a customer-facing standpoint as to why this is happening.

First, put yourself in the shoes of an Owner/Operator of a boutique fitness studio.  Your total footprint of your space is anywhere around 1,500-3,500 sq. ft. as opposed to a big box gym which could range from 15,000-65,000 sq. ft.. Therefore, scalability is one reason why boutique fitness is on the rise even through a Global Pandemic.  It is much easier to scale the business with a smaller footprint, as well as, tailor those changes to your membership base since you are dealing with less members overall.   This doesn’t mean that you still do not have challenges but it is much easier to communicate, clean, change programming etc. with a smaller footprint.  Now, do not get me wrong, big box gyms still have a place in the industry but trying to scale back will be harder than one thinks given today’s climate and Government stipulations from state to state.  We are also seeing some big brands in big box struggle with massive layoffs and bankruptcy filings, whereas, boutique fitness like F45 adapted and scaled their business first with live stream offerings and then outdoor boot camps.  I would also say that over the past few years, some of the market share has also come from “at home” apps.  Peloton, Beach Body and Les Mills to name a few have done a good job in attracting customers that either do not have time to go to a gym or just are intimidated.  Again, the ability to scale a business is a big reason why.

Now that we have looked at it from an operational standpoint, let us look at what boutique fitness is at it core. What boutique fitness has always done well is building a sense of community.  Community is what drives fitness studios because of the partnership and motivation you get from a person next to you doing the exact same workout.  Now, in big box gyms, group fitness rooms do this well and it still remains one of the biggest factors as to why someone would join a big box gym.  Ultimately, do they have a group fitness room and what condition is it in?  As group fitness became popular, the industry looked at it and said, we can duplicate this on its own.  Fast fwd. from a few years ago and you have a full menu of categories of studios that fits your exact need.  From H.I.I.T. training to Pilates, there is a studio for you and it also demands a higher price point and why not?  You are getting a more tailored approach, as well as, a great customer experience because it is a more intimate relationship with for the member.  It doesn’t mean that it is for everyone.  There are still a good amount of people, including myself, that like a good cardio day where I can just go to the gym and run a bit on the treadmill.  It does mean, however, that the average gym member at a boutique studio is getting younger.  According SGB Media, The average age of a boutique studio member was 30, nearly a decade younger than the overall average for all gyms. 

Bottom line, there is room for everyone and there should be.  The most important aspect is that you feel confident that you can hit your goals in a safe and motivating environment. 

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