The Boutique Fitness Boom – The New York Times

The Boutique Fitness Boom – The New York Times

Some fitness entrepreneurs are going for the whole decathlon of contained group athletics. Anthony Geisler is the C.E.O. of a company called Xponential Fitness which owns boutique studio brands in eight categories, including yoga, Pilates, indoor cycling, rowing and barre. He looks for small studios that are being poorly run by people who are good at fitness but not finance, and then franchises them. Many of his franchisees have bought several brands. Someone may own a Club Pilates, a Pure Barre and a Row House, for example. He and his executives provide them with help finding locations and negotiating leases.

One source of real estate they look for is out-of-business RadioShacks.

When it makes sense — and it often does, Mr. Geisler said — he encourages studio owners to open in geo-bulk if they’ve bought several brands, or near other brands franchised by others. “It becomes like a fitness food court,” he said.

Xponential is introducing a product this year called the X-Pass, which will allow members of one studio limited access to others. It is an in-house version of the popular program ClassPass, which lets subscribing members pay a monthly fee in exchange for discounts at a host of boutique studios. Last week Gympass, a similar corporate program, sent out emails announcing the “game changer” that SoulCycle was now part of its North American network, a new strategy for an indoor cycling brand long known for its exclusivity.

Keely Watson owns seven Club Pilates franchises in Orange County, Calif., and Los Angeles, and is opening an eighth later this year. She has also opened a YogaSix studio, with two more set to open by the end of the summer and nine more within the next two years. For her first YogaSix, she opened it very close to one of her Pilates studios. The studios share a general manager and will share teachers in the future, she hopes. “It’s really nice to have that kind of proximity for logistics,” Ms. Watson said. “And from a sales perspective, it’s nice to tell clients who are shopping us that they can try both.”

Nicole Mereshensky is the kind of customer all these businesses are clamoring for. Ms. Mereshensky, 39 and a mother of two in New York, takes a boutique fitness class about six times a week. Usually, the breakdown is Barry’s Bootcamp three or four times a week, then she adds a rotation of Flywheel and Fhitting Room, with an occasional Pilates, boxing or rowing class. She spends $340 a month for a package deal at Barry’s and $75 for a ClassPass membership.

“I’m into taking classes because I want the group energy and I like people telling me what to do,” she said.

Ms. Mereshensky prefers studio within a mile of her apartment. She likes to walk the class to get a little extra exercise.

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