With such explosive growth over the past few years, it’s clear that boutique studios are here to stay in the fitness industry. Gone are the days where mega gyms were the only way to get your workout done. Today, there are specialty fitness studios for just about any workout you’re into, whether it’s hot yoga, HIIT, barre, boot camp and beyond.
While major players in the gym industry such as Crunch, 24 Hour Fitness, and New York Sports Club are no strangers to offering group fitness classes to their members, these gyms are responding to the boutique trend by building out their own in-house boutique studios at popular locations. Hosted within the gym, specially-designed studios mimic the intimate, high-quality nature of boutique fitness with classes capped to provide a more personal experience. Crunch, for example, which has locations throughout the U.S. as well as in Puerto Rico and Australia, recently launched The SweatShed at its flagship East Coast location on 59th street in New York City.
“SweatShed is entirely different from group fitness in many ways,” says Mike Spiegel, Regional Director of Fitness of East Coast. “For one, the classes are much smaller (16 max vs 60+ in some group fitness studios). The setting is more intimate, the coaching is more individualized and you get more attention in general. There is a big screen TV with the program on it, cool lighting, killer music, modalities like kettlebells, heavier dumbbells, total gym rowers, battle ropes and tools you won’t find in your average group fitness class. Additionally, we offer the boutique extras one would come to expect taking boutique classes, such as eucalyptus cold towels and complimentary chilled bottled water.”
The setting is more intimate, the coaching is more individualized and you get more attention in general.
At New York Sports Club, a similar offering, RedZone, provides both members and non-members access to classes exclusively at the chain’s Astor Place location in New York City. “Our new RedZone classes were launched in June of 2017, however, NYSC first began offering small group training programs back in 2012,” explains Lisa Hufcut, Director of Public Relations. “When initially launched, it was in response to what we found out a lot of members were looking for — an opportunity to train in a small group setting but still have the option of having a gym for independent workouts or a wide steady of group exercise classes — all under one roof.” This in house boutique studio offers three classes: RZ Pump, a strength-based circuit style program, RZ Boost, a conditioning program designed to boost performance, and RZ Core, which starts with 30 minutes of HIIT training followed by core work.
In-house boutique fitness studios aim to provide a more personalized workout experience, in addition to offering the benefits of a traditional gym membership. But what other advantages does this have for members? Spiegel says it’s all about the amenities. “At the end of the day, why spend $35 on a class where you have to wait for a shower for 30 minutes afterwards when you can get a boutique class for just $15 per class [as a Crunch Member]?”
However, some boutique studio owners feel this in-house trend lacks staying power. “I think the larger size gyms are trying to follow the direction of the fitness industry by offering in-house boutique fitness — which is good because it means they are listening to their clients,” says Alisa Rose, founder and owner of Art Fitness. “But what they are missing is the true intimacy and community they are looking for, and this is a huge opportunity for us that own a stand alone boutique fitness studio.”
“The fact that big gyms are trying to create boutique fitness studio experiences is a sign that boutique studios are doing something right with the customer experience,” says Teresa Yasutis, owner of POPCYCLE. “I think it will be challenge for big gyms to offer the personal experience and community that is found in boutique studios. People come to POPCYCLE because I make it our fundamental mission to know every rider by name and understand their personal goals. At big gyms, it’s a huge challenge to offer quality and personal attention.”
But as more gyms continue to jump on the in-house trend, offering specialized boutique fitness classes within the gym’s flagship locations, boutiques may continue to notice even more competition for new and loyal users. Ultimately however, what keeps clients coming back is delivering a top-notch class experience, which boutique studios and gyms alike should continue to focus on first and foremost.