The future of boutique fitness: exciting and dynamic market space

Lewis Parkinson, Managing Director of Fuel Works, a boutique fitness consultancy, branding, and marketing agency which he founded in 2017, recently took part in the Technogym roundtable on the boutique sector: Intensity Matters - The Rise of High Intensity Interval Training and the Boutique Sector. In this occasion he discusses his insights and the vast number of exciting learnings that the wider fitness market can take from the boutique sector.

Boutique fitness uniqueness

“Boutique is a unique business model which can teach us a lot about specificity, attention to detail, and putting people first,” said Lewis. “Consumers want results - that’s the entire reason for exercising. With the “pay as you play” model of boutique, the power is back in the consumers’ hands. Boutique has to offer a consistently amazing experience, or people will go elsewhere. There’s a lot we can learn from this.”

Masters of branding

“Boutiques are becoming the masters of branding, marketing strategy and communication. The rest of the industry can learn a lot from them. Once you start marketing yourself as a lifestyle business to everyday normal people, you become a real brand. Your communications can’t be cliquey or it will appear hostile and unwelcoming. – Boutique fitness has changed the scope of a marketer’s role. The ideal scenario is a boutique product that is so good it doesn’t need traditional marketing. Your marketing experts need to present how good that product already is, and make it easy to share and recommend.”

Power of the consumer

“Product is everything, and a good boutique will invest time in listening to its customers and putting the structure in place to ensure the product and execution is on point. – The hardest part is getting consumers to try boutique classes, but the beauty of the offering is that it’s flexible and accessible, and this will go a long way towards breaking down barriers and encouraging first-time engagement.”
“Boutiques need to drive attendance through good quality marketing but also strong product. If the food in a restaurant was bad, you’d never return again. The same applies with this model. The power is in the consumers’ hands.”

Three ways to leverage the power of the consumer

1 The power lies with the consumer: operators have to focus on quality of product, or they will fail
2 The customer needs variety: it is the instructor’s job to get creative without disrupting the customer’s routine, so people have a reason to keep coming back
3 The customer holds the feedback: customer feedback is the lifeblood of product development, so get it and find out what you can do better (face to face, telephone, email, or existing tech platforms).

Three valuable lessons from boutiques

  • Boutiques stick to what they are good at and don’t deviate into the commercial trap of trying to be a one stop shop
  • By definition, group fitness is sociable, your customers either come into the studio with friends, or because they heard about it from friends. And either way, they’re bound to make friends in the studio! Gyms have been trying to create ‘social clubs’ for years. Boutiques force the social element, and (because of this) create a culture that fosters community and belonging.
  • Due to the lack of membership contracts, boutiques are forced to act like a retailer or restaurant. Boutiques need to drive attendance through good quality marketing but also strong product. Boutiques become accessible because of this, and the barrier to entry is minimised, allowing users to drop in and out whenever.

At the moment, boutique is very London-focused and has largely failed to break into the rest of the UK. This leaves major opportunities open to the right people. As well as seeing how boutique can shape the market. Boutique will be the catalyst for a great deal of change in what consumers demand from fitness, and how we deliver it.

The concept of HIIT dominates media articles, class timetables, PT sessions and social media platforms and is the number one fitness trend for 2018 according to the highly regarded American College of Sports Medicine fitness trends.
This interview is an extract taken from the Technogym report Intensity Matters - The Rise of High Intensity Interval Training and the Boutique Sector edited by Nicola Joyce, Sports and Fitness Writer, the report includes the full interview as well as the summary of a roundtable discussion of ten experts and offers a great insight and summary of the boutique industry.


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