Boutique gyms have been around for a while now but what exactly are they and how are they different to a regular gym?
Most gym-goers are familiar with the experience of walking into an old-school fitness studio that made them feel like they didn’t belong.
From the smell of other people’s body odour, the clatter of metal weights, to the rhythmic whirring and thudding of running machines, often these spaces aren’t very inviting for newcomers.
It’s no wonder customers are increasingly turning away from traditional gyms in favour of smaller and more personalised fitness studios - and happily paying more for the benefits they bring.
What is a boutique gym?
Boutique gyms are spaces that often focus on one style of exercise, such as yoga orPilates, aiming to cater to a niche audience and a diversity of clientele without a one-size-fits-all approach.
Unlike the larger gyms, which expect a significant percentage of their customers to not attend regularly (and some not at all!), these spaces rely on repeat customer loyalty.
Boutique gyms have:
· Specialised fitness plans, courses, or classes such as barre, yoga, small group fitness or cycling
· Typically, higher prices than regular gyms
· Highly qualified and specialised trainers
· Smaller class sizes
· An interior that creates a welcoming and enjoyable experience for customers to work out in
· A smaller interior space, usually between 80-300 sqm, which means they’re easier to set up
· Often a focus on overall health and wellbeing, not just losing fat or building muscle
· A sense of connection to like-minded individuals, which helps customers feel they’re part of a community
· Often they’ll have recommendations for complimentary health professionals such as coaches and nutritionists
Why are boutique gyms popular?
Increasingly gym-goers, like countless other customer demographics, are demanding more individualised experiences that cater to their exact choice of workout.
And, crucially, they’re willing to pay more to get them.
For example, imagine a yogi(hyperlink to yogi article) rocking up to a traditional gym and starting a sun salutation next to a bodybuilder struggling to dead lift a 50kg weight.
Neither customer is likely to feel valued or like they’re part of a likeminded community.
Data from the US has charted the rise in popularity of boutique gyms amongst millennials and the results are clear: boutique fitness studio customers are more committed and willing to pay more than those that attend traditional gyms.
Even following the extensive lockdowns throughout the pandemic, which saw many fitness businesses providers pivoting to virtual classes, boutique-style fitness providers are experiencing rapid bounce-backs in revenue and even gains, in contrast to traditional gyms.
The boutique gym industry is expected to be worth $22.1 billion by 2025 with industry experts suggesting the pandemic placed an even greater emphasis on maintaining health.
How to set up a boutique gym or fitness studio
Are you keen to set up your own health or fitness studio? Here are some steps to follow:
1. Get accreditation in your chosen fitness area
Customers in this sector want highly qualified trainers who they can rely on for achieving results.
If you don’t want to run the classes yourself then make sure you have access to the best trainers you can find.
2. Write up a business plan and connect with a business mentor
While the industry can be highly lucrative, you can only hope to turn a profit if you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, who your competitors are, and who your potential clients are.
Business mentors, who can be found online or via social media, can be invaluable when first starting out and will make you feel connected to someone who can offer timely advice.
3. Get legal advice and adequate insurance coverage
Be sure you understand the risks before even considering signing up your first client.
Making sure you’re covered from a legal perspective and by adequate business and public liability insurance will put you in the best position to succeed - without the risk of losing everything if something goes wrong.
4. Visit similar studios to learn what works
Depending on whether you’re aiming to appeal to yogis or bodybuilders, the studio should reflect the overall purpose of the class.
Researching other boutique gyms that deliver the same experience you’re wanting to create helps get a clearer picture of what yours could be.
Once you’ve decided in the direction you want to go with your own studio, set up business goals to help stay on track.
5. Decide on minimum size and must-have facilities for your studio
If your studio only needs to have room for a few yoga mats, then you can set up shop in almost any location.
But if you need room for larger fitness apparatus then you’ll have to make sure customers can operate them safely - and have enough of them to run a reasonably-sized class.
Also consider the need to have access to showers, change rooms and a reception desk.
6. Secure funding
Adequate funding is vital for starting a business. This is more than simply being able to pay for the equipment and client amenities you plan to provide.
You also need cash reserves to operate (and survive) for the first 6 to 18 months period it usually takes to turn a profit.
Securing a business loan through a lending institution can also connect you to experts who will help you along the way, and can be tailored to your exact needs.
7. Find a location
Just like in any real estate venture, it’s all about location.
Before you sign a lease it’s important to know what your responsibilities and rights are for the site versus what the landlord will provide.
Positioning yourself close to public transport and available parking is key, as is making sure there’s ample foot traffic so passers-by in your neighbourhood can become your new customers.
8. Create a marketing plan
One of the most important ways to connect with new customers is by making your brand stand out with professional-looking branding and marketing.
From social media posts to leaflets and flyers, strong branding will help you stand out from the crowd and make potential customers take notice.
Try the following tips:
· Employ a professional graphic designer or download a DIY app like Canva to create a logo.
· Share photos, videos and advice on social media to reach potential clients.
· Consider offering free trials or discounts on new memberships to help get new customers in the door.
9. Build a website or app
These days any business without an online presence in the form of a website or app(or both) will fail to reach potentially thousands of new clients.
Not only does it let customers find you, it allows them to interact with you by booking classes, paying for services and recommending you to others.
10. Make admin a breeze by using a ready-made online management tool
Many business owners fail to realise how much of their lives will be taken over by admin if they try to do everything themselves.
These days fitness clients expect to be able to book and pay for classes online, so those who try to do things the old-fashioned way can miss out on considerable revenue by not allowing customers to interact with them virtually.