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Technogym and SWEAT: the leadership panel discussion at UK Active Boutique Fitness Event

Boutique fitness has transformed the industry for operators - and consumers. And those on the frontline seem to think it hasn’t peaked yet. At SWEAT 2019, we led a panel of boutique brands discussing the future of boutique fitness. Where do the growth opportunities lie, and where should boutique brands focus their efforts?

Here’s a round up of the discussion on how boutique might grow over the next five years.

As headline sponsor of the UK Active SWEAT in February, Technogym had the pleasure of leading the key panel discussion on the immense influence of boutique fitness experiences for consumers, and the future of boutique brands for operators and owners.
This lively panel discussion packed out the main room at SWEAT, inviting plenty of questions from the floor. The panel consisted of Chris Heron, founder of The Engine Room, Catherine Jones, Head of Marketing at Orangetheory Fitness, Liz Joy-Oakley, Instructor at MoreYoga, and Jason Tubbs, MD of Another Space. Technogym Sales Director Steve Ruffell led the discussion.

Peak Of Boutique? Or is it just the start!

Steve began by posing a question to the panel. There has been 28% growth in the boutique market over the past year, and London alone has 300 boutique studios. Has boutique maxed out, or is there still room for more?

Catherine from Orangetheory Fitness kicked us off by stating there seems to be “less loyalty” with members, and therefore operators need to creating a strong bond throughout the customer journey. Creating loyalty is a key business objective at Orangetheory, she said, “and we place a strong emphasis on creating quality to enhance the consumer experience. We invest heavily in the schooling and training of our teachers, so our customers can expect a consistent and high quality service.

It soon became clear that our panel members do not think boutique has reached its peak, with opportunities highlighted in geographical locations, training and teaching, consumer choice, and digital connectivity.

Quality Trainers Are Key – Recruit Performers!

Jason from Another Space agreed that investing into trainers will continue to be a driving force in the success of boutique brands. Both product and people is key, he said. At Another Space, we look for performers with stage and theatrical backgrounds who we can then train as coaches. This keeps our product fresh, and will be a key factor in our success as boutique continues to grow.
Next, Steve challenged the panel on the concept of exclusivity in boutique trainers. Both Liz from MoreYoga and Jason from Another Space agreed that trainer exclusivity becomes an important pay-off when investment (in the recruitment and training processes) is high.

Cease The Moment – The Opportunity Is Now!

What could our panel of four tell us about the landscape for growth in boutique businesses? An interesting snapshot emerged at Steve encouraged the panel to share their plans. Liz told the audience about MoreYoga’s bold expansion plans, with 30 additional studios set open by the end of 2019. Steve asked Liz about the brand’s enthusiasm and confidence in an apparently “peaked” market.
We don’t agree that the boutique market has reached its peak, Liz explained, and we can see a definite appetite for a more streamlined service. As we roll out our next set of studios, we will dial down a business model of reduced overheads by opening only for scheduled classes (removing the need for a receptionist), and taking away some extra facilities such as juice bars so we can invest more into our teachers.
Jason explained the growth plans for Another Space. We are taking the idea of growth in a slightly different direction, he said. Our focus is on internal expansion within our current studio offering of 26 classes a week. Jason’s viewpoint balanced risk and opportunity, with honouring the quality customers are familiar with. It’s a kind of cautionary expansion, he said, maintaining the same number of facilities and instead increase the offerings at each location. We can then fill the classes by presenting an enticing product which maximises use of current locations.

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