So, you’ve established your fitness studio in a bustling city, and business is running smoothly. You’ve got a hard working staff in place, trustworthy managers you feel comfortable leaving the keys with on your days off, and a loyal clientele base who are constantly saying, “You know — they really need a workout like this out in the suburbs!”
If you can make it here in the big city, you can make it anywhere, right? But before you start scouting retail space for your next location in suburbia, there are a few considerations you’ll want to take in order to evaluate where and when to expand. Here’s how to get the timing right (and the rest of your ducks in order) when opening an additional location in the suburbs.
BUILD YOUR REVENUE RUNWAY
This isn’t your first rodeo, so you know that opening a new studio is going to require a good amount of money. But according to Grant van der Harst, managing director of Anglo Liners, despite the success of your city location, it’s important not to bank on your spot in the suburbs becoming profitable right away. “Have the financial means to make a smooth and swift move to a second location,” he says. “Not only this, but I would strongly advise you also have the financial security to be able to sustain your business at this second property for at least the next six months in case you run into difficulty.” Business isn’t always a smooth road, so before you make a drastic move, be sure you have the adequate financial provisions to fall back on just in case. You’ll also want to consider how you can mimic the success of the original studio you built into a suburban location, without cannibalizing your existing location. This means taking stock of what (if any) instructors are willing to travel to teach at your new location, whether your clients in your city location will end up visiting the suburban location more, and if your brand will resonate with a new client base and potentially new price point and expectation for what boutique fitness is.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Expanding your business from the city to the suburbs is definitely all about location, location, location. When you’re running a city studio, you have the benefit of consistent foot traffic. But out in suburbia, you’re dealing with less visibility and often, similar neighborhood staples that could affect the need case for your business. “Before you make a move to the suburbs to open another location, make sure you are aware of your business’s staying power in that area,” says van der Harst. “You need to be aware of both the consumer and economic trends in the suburbs and decide if there is a need for your company there.” Not to say that if you were to open up a yoga studio in a neighborhood that already has one, you wouldn’t be successful. But you probably don’t want to compete with the yoga studio that’s been around for decades — or open up shop in a neighborhood that already has 10 of them. To find out what you’re up against in an area you’re potentially interested in, van der Harst recommends doing a search online. “Type in the keywords associated with your company and pinpoint the areas where there seems to be a lack of your services,” he suggests. “For example, if you’re looking to open a store that sells wallpaper in a certain area, search for ‘wallpaper’ and the name of place you wish to open a second store at. If the search engine spits out three stores already in that area that sell wallpaper, there won’t be much point in you bringing in a third, especially in a suburban area where there’s less commercial scope.” Once you’ve done your rounds of online research, it’s always a good rule of thumb to get out there on the ground with a local broker who’s an expert on the area and can give advice on where to best set up shop to meet your target demographic.
LEVERAGE GEO-TARGETING FOR PROMOTION
Now, you’ve saved up your Benjamins, did your homework, signed on the dotted line, and are all set to open up your newest venture. How do you go about bringing awareness to your new business when it’s tucked away in a strip mall? If you’re not familiar with Google AdWords, now would be an ideal time to get yourself set up with an account. Geo-targeting ad features can be very beneficial when it comes to reaching potential customers in the area who have an interest in what your business offers. “The most effective route to expand your customer base geographically would be to use geo-targeting features within Google AdWords,” says van der Harst. “This will allow you to set a radius target of people proactively looking for your products and services, allowing you to build up a following before the new location is even opened.” You can use a similar targeting approach on social media platforms such as Facebook, and target your ad to users who live in the area and are interested in fitness. Once you’ve got your social measures in place, start building your presence offline by getting involved with other small businesses in the area. Consider hosting a grand opening party as well, inviting partner businesses, your existing clients, and other fitness influencers in the area.