The boutique fitness business is driven by volume. The more people you can get coming to your studio, the better the business will be. With this fundamental in mind, the more inclusive your concept, the more potential you have to grow……in theory. The best concepts create a powerful “inclusivity” vibe that makes the highest number of people feel comfortable
I’m not talking about elitism here, I’m talking about studios with an offering or a vibe that make large potential customer segments feel like they don’t belong.
There are 3 huge market segments that many boutique fitness businesses either ignore or overtly exclude
- Men…..obviously 50% of the market, but historically averse to group exercise
- People over 50…..107 million Americans, larger group than millennials, and the fastest growing
- Couch potatoes……people that just aren’t fit, but are looking for a way to get there
There are other fitness consumer niches that don’t feel comfortable going to studios for a variety of reasons but these are literally massive segments of virtually every market. Classic examples of fitness businesses that exclude these groups at least to some degree are Barre (98% women), Bootcamps (high impact on aging joints freaks out the boomers), and Soul Cycle-ish places (super-model vibe).
Yes, there are boutique fitness businesses that are successful targeting one niche: women or millennials for example. But my vast preference is for a business model that can draw effectively from all these groups. Here are a few examples.
Again, the idea is volume. Targeting disparate groups. The Row House tagline kind of says it all: high energy, low impact, full body workout for everyone. Guys will row, baby boomers with bad knees will row, and the stated mission of this concept is that non-athletes and non-rowers can feel comfortable and benefit. The idea of pulling together, embodied in a rowing concept called “swing”, is designed to create a special experience. Participants I’ve spoken to started out skeptical but came away sold. Yes, it’s a killer workout — but that’s not the point. What’s powerful is that it has an inclusive feel and therefore a large potential market.
While leaving the urban cores of NY and LA largely to Soul Cycle and FlyWheel, CycleBar has exploded into suburban and urban markets in almost every state. There are studios in Fargo and Fresno, but also around Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Seattle. Indoor cycling is something men like, it is low impact so baby boomers like it, and classes are taught in the dark and are adaptable to lower fitness levels so novices like it. CycleBar focuses on the music and instructor energy, but they’ve also done a great job of building and inclusive community vibe with charity rides and other events.