BFS Co-Founder Julian Barnes Shares 5 Key Insights on the State of the Industry


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BFS hit NYC last month for the second year in a row.  Offering the same insights we have come to expect from this conference, with a wealth of information on the state of the industry, the future of the boutique sector, and best practices for keeping your business at the forefront; BFS 2019 did not disappoint.

Before diving into thought provoking breakout sessions and illuminating panel discussions, BFS co-founder Julian Barnes shared five (5) key insights regarding the State of the Industry that are based upon the hundreds of conversations, meetings and surveys that BFS has conducted with boutique fitness studios located throughout North America.   


#1. Explosion in the Franchise Space

Julian dove into these insights by first addressing the explosion in the franchise space.  With the amount of fitness franchises developing and the rate at which the existing ones are growing, this is not a force that the small boutique fitness studio owner can ignore.  The most clear example of this explosion is Orangetheory which generated $1billion in system wide revenue in 2018, across their 1,100 studios in 49 states & 22 countries.

In addition to Orangetheory, F45 is also experiencing explosive growth as evidenced by their recent investment from Mark Whalberg and their 1500 studios in 40 countries.  Likewise, Xponential’s portfolio studios are also growing rapidly with a stated goal of 900 locations for each company.  These are their current # of locations:  Club Pilates – 650;  CycleBar – 200; Row House – 200; StretchLab – 160; Yoga Six – 21; AKT – 50.

Barre Studios are also exploding in this space with Barre3, Xtend Barre, WeBarre, The Dailey Method, The Bar Method, Studio Barre and many others.  Also popular in the space are boxing studios like UFC Gym, TITLE Boxing Club, 9Round, iLoveKickboxing, and CKO.

The extreme growth of the franchise space can be challenging for an independent studio owner, but the overall growth of our thriving boutique sector is very exciting.  


#2. Fitness Anywhere

With the growing focus on health and wellness that has been building for years, the demand for these offerings to be easily accessible at all times is also growing.  This means fitness is appearing anywhere and everywhere. Sure, we all see the ads for the digital offerings that provide easily accessible in-home workouts, but do we realize the full extent of the digital fitness growth?  First time users of on-demand and streaming fitness content spent 37% of their fitness budget on these platforms which means the days of your clients relying solely on in-studio workouts with you are probably behind us.

Digital platforms aside, fitness is working its way into every space and no longer exists only within the walls of a brick-and-mortar facility.  Both Equinox and Lifetime Fitness recently announced new initiatives that combine fitness, work and lodging under one roof.  Julian also challenged New Yorkers (and everyone) to look beyond the saturated Flatiron District in New York City to identify opportunities in other regions such as suburban shopping malls which have an abundance of space resulting from mass closings of retailers such as Sears, Target, Kohl’s and more.  


#3. Multiple Modalities

We can also see that studios offering more than one modality are taking off.   What better accommodates consumer’s desire for variety, community and a high-touch experience.  This trend also makes sense for America’s heartland where many cities do not have as many different boutique fitness studios as some of the Coastal Cities.  

Multiple modality studios such as SPENGA and Meraki in Oregon, Studio Three in Chicago, and Fuel in Boston are designed to fulfill multiple needs for their clients.  BFS Presenter Stephanie Moran is also opening CYB Studios in CA this fall.


#4. Big Box Gyms

Big box gyms dominated the industry for many years before the boutique sector began to flourish and they won’t relinquish their market share without a fight.  Many of the large gyms like Equinox, LA Fitness, New York Sports Club, etc. have entered the boutique space either by starting or investing in studios (Equinox owns SoulCycle and Pure Yoga, invested in Rumble and recently launched Precision Running) or by developing boutique-style programming that they provide in-house (Equinox’s PGX (Playground experience);  LA Fitness created HIIT by LAF studio; David Lloyds in London).  

The interest of these big box gyms in the boutique sector shows that they know that boutique fitness is not a trend and is here to stay, but it is also means that independent studios need to learn how to compete against their well-financed competitors.  


#5. Growth Opportunities

Corporate wellness platforms such as Peerfit, Training Amigo and Burn Along provide great opportunities for boutique studios to generate ancillary revenue.  

In the Recovery sector, stand-alone studios such as Stretch*d and RecoverNYC are beginning to appear; businesses such as Racked Stretch are partnering with boutique fitness studios and the MELT Method is training fitness professionals to teach self care classes at studios.

Finally, as Generation X ages, there is a huge opportunity for the boutique fitness sector to develop programs that serve active 50 & 60 year olds who are unable to continue doing box-jumps, HIIT workouts and sprints, but who desire to continue to train like athletes.


Join us at BFS-DC on August 1st to learn more about and meet some of the fitness leaders who are driving these trends. 



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