Working out used to be so straightforward: find a gym that's close to you, get in, get out, and get on with your day. Not so much anymore. The last few years have seen an explosive rise in smaller scale or specialized fitness spots, in-home training and especially online training. A rise that many speculate is eating away at the bottom line of traditional big-box gyms.
Endless rows of top-of-the-line treadmills and equipment still can't beat the feeling I get from working out at smaller studios. Amongst my friends and clients I am not alone — more and more of them are leaving their health clubs in favor of small studio memberships, free at-home workouts, or opting for a cutting edge online program with a custom phone app. It is after all the generation of technology and all its’ benefits. Could 2016 be the year that we all say goodbye to the “typical” gym for good?
I know myself and a host of many other of the most qualified local trainers have recently moved to training out of smaller spaces. It is more cost effective for the client and us. It is quiet and private so teaching is easier and the clients are far less nervous in a studio. And we get to choose the playlist!
By the Numbers
The number of studios opened in 2014 and 2015 showed a 200-percent increase from the previous year. When comparing this to only a seven-percent increase in the number of new gyms that were opened, it suggests that the industry is shifting away from traditional big-box chains. In short: studio business is booming.
Take SoulCycle, the biggest indoor cycling chain in the country. In the last three years, it has grown from 12 studios in two states in the US to more than 80 studios in multiple states. And how's this for a staggering statistic: the company reported it averages about 72,000 rides per week. Though one of the bigger success stories, SoulCycle is not an isolated phenomenon. Just about everywhere in the country is seeing an increase in local fitness boutique gyms specializing in yoga, Zumba, and CrossFit, strongman, you name it.
The dramatic growth of studios is two-fold: for owners, the cost of running a small studio is less expensive when compared to the overhead of maintaining a full-service gym, and consumers are looking for more than what big-box gyms can offer — specifically, a more tailored fitness experience. These studios are centered on a particular community of people with similar passions [Crossfit, Yoga, boxing], and provides a friendlier experience with personalized environment.
Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness and 24-Hour Fitness all closed 2015 with earnings that exceeded the previous year, and more people signed up for new gym memberships in January 2015 than ever before. It is interesting to note that the low cost, no frills gyms are taking a much larger bite out of the market share. People are smarter than you used to be. They want more for their money, not just a bunch of equipment in a unfriendly environment.
Some big-box gyms have also remained successful by expanding on what it means to be a gym. When Club Industry, a trade magazine aimed at fitness business professionals, released its yearly report of top-earning gyms, there was a distinct pattern in the top 10. Though thought of as traditional gyms, almost all of the clubs on the list were much more than a collection of treadmills and weight equipment. Many are adapting to consumer needs by increasing studio space to allow for more specialized fitness classes. Given that others offer enticing extras like onsite healthy restaurants, nutritionists, spas, and/or childcare, it might be more apt to call them wellness centers.
I think there will always be a place for community centre gyms that are built to appeal to a diverse group of people for many reasons. My feel is that the expensive gyms that offer very little in the way of extra amenities are in for a rough ride over the next few years as people tighten their financial belts and become more educated about what’s out there.