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Now the industry is turning again and


embracing the power of the group, building a stronger sense of community and fostering a tribal following by creating signature fitness experiences that feel more authentic. Authentic because the ‘pact’ between the studio and customer, in my experience, seems clearer – you’re here because we’re a specialist and appreciate the effort required to reach your desired outcome. These are purposeful places with serious work to be undertaken.


A mature industry The UK commercial health and fitness sector has evolved significantly since being kickstarted by David Lloyd with his first club in Heston, Middlesex, in 1982. These early private sector clubs whetted the appetite of the general public, which in turn encouraged new entrants. In 2015, however, the UK private health club sector is mature. There are high levels of merger, acquisition and restructuring activity. Competition is intensifying and private sector membership subscription income for 2010–2014 grew at an annual average rate of just 0.1 per cent – slower than annualised gross domestic product (GDP) – as it becomes more challenging for many operators to raise prices. Given this competitive backdrop,


you would assume the predominant conversation among gym consumers would be “how little I pay”. But in fact for a growing minority it’s becoming


“how much I pay”, with a 45-minute boutique fitness studio class potentially costing more than one month’s membership at a low-cost gym. So what are these new specialist studios, and what’s driving this trend?


• Intimate scale • Narrow programme/activity offer • Expert and guided instruction


• Schedule-driven • Nurturing environment


• Group-powered • Shared common interest • Compelling mission


July 2015 © Cybertrek 2015


Defining a studio Studios are known by many names – ranging from ‘microgyms’ to ‘boutiques’ to ‘stores’ – but regardless of the terminology, I believe they possess the following core characteristics:


Athlete Lab uses real bikes and puts a strong emphasis on expert coaching


“THE STUDIO’S LONG-TERM SUCCESS IS DEPENDENT ON IT DEVELOPING A DEEP


EXPERTISE THAT’S DIFFICULT FOR OTHERS TO IMITATE” Many studios are founded by


enthusiastic individuals with a compelling everyday mission to share their deep passion for a programme or activity. For example, when Hilary Gilbert moved to London from the United States she couldn’t find indoor cycling classes as good as the ones she had experienced in New York, so she decided to create her own studio and BOOM Cycle was born. Being small in scale, studios need to


operate efficiently and are therefore driven by scheduled classes using expert instructors who optimise the experience for all participants. The support and encouragement of others is transmitted through the class, bonded by a shared common interest to create a nurturing environment. It’s a powerful recipe that can be significantly different


from a mainstream gym experience, and therefore very compelling from a customer perspective.


Popularity I see six key factors that are driving the popularity of boutique fitness studios (see Figure 1, p44), which I discuss in my new report – 2015 UK boutique fitness studio report: A strategic investigation into an exciting growth segment. Meanwhile Figure 2 (p46) shows the


distinctive way a studio will create value for its customers. It shows nine core factors on which a typical mid-market club traditionally competes. The red line illustrates the gym and the emphasis placed on each of these nine factors. A higher score means the club invests more to provide extra to members.


Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital 45


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