The rise of boutique fitness studios

boutique fitness

Bigger isn’t always better. Boutique fitness studios are slowly pushing out mega-gyms across the country, with cult followings to support them as they rise to the top. With less overhead and sold-out classes, could this be the smartest business decision the fitness industry has seen?

Boutique fitness studios are taking over

Slim, one-room gyms are in, and the low cost of starting them is turning gym rats and workout instructors into entrepreneurs.

There are no Olympic-sized pools, rows of treadmills or steam rooms in these small fitness studios. Instead, devotees sweat through hour-long classes in tiny spaces, swinging heavy kettlebells or practicing yoga poses. Some of the studios resemble high-energy nightclubs with dim lights and loud music. Classes can be pricy, at about $30 each, but that’s not keeping people away.

Starting out small makes these slim gyms a low-risk bet for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“We started this with zero dollars,” said Brittany Blum, co-owner of yoga studio Ritual San Francisco. Ritual opened earlier this year in a 1,000-square-foot studio that is inside a large gym. Ritual’s owners negotiated a deal with the gym, paying it a percentage of sales instead of a monthly rent.

Two years ago, The Fhitting Room in New York opened with a 1,000-square-foot studio; now there are two additional locations in the city.

Owner Kari Saitowitz was a marketing executive before she quit to raise her two children. She started taking high intensity training classes and decided to open a studio of her own. Saitowitz hires trainers to teach the $35 classes, while she focuses on the studio’s branding. The lime green towels, for example, match the color of The Fhitting Room’s logo, customers are called “Fhixers” and t-shirts sold at the studio say “Live Fhit.”

Boutique fitness studios are the fastest growing part of the gym industry, said Meredith Poppler, spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. They made up 21 percent of the fitness industry in 2013, the first and most recent year the IHRSA measured boutique studios. Awareness may grow even more next month, when the E! network airs “Hollywood Cycle,” a reality show that follows the owners and instructors of Los Angeles cycling studio Cycle House.

The trend has been fueled, in part, by cycling chain SoulCycle and intense workout craze CrossFit, said Poppler, both of which gained popularity in the past decade. And word of mouth helps too: “If you’re seeing results,” Poppler said, “you’re going to tell your friends.”

Full Story: Tiny gym trend turning fitness fans into entrepreneurs

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