An Entrepreneur’s Boutique Gym FAQs – Answered!

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August 24, 2022

Small, sophisticated fitness studios are popular in the post-pandemic world. As this vertical of the health and fitness industry develops, it’s only natural to wonder if you should get a piece of that. But is it a good idea? Once you start a boutique fitness business, how do you keep the good momentum going? Your questions are answered here.

The Industry Outlook

What is boutique fitness?

You’ve heard the buzzwords buzzing, but what is a boutique fitness studio, really? Common characteristics include a small and upscale space (usually less than 4,000 square feet), specialized fitness area(s), private and small-group classes, and a luxury experience overall. Types of boutique studios include HIIT, cycling, Pilates, barre, dance, and more.

Are boutique gyms worth it?

From a consumer’s perspective, the boutique experience is worth it because of the comfortable and hygienic atmosphere, individualized coaching, and tight-knit relationships that a smaller gym or studio offers. From an entrepreneur’s perspective, it’s worth it because boutique spaces have built-in differentiators (i.e., intimacy and customization) that their audience already understands when they see the word “boutique” or visit the location. It’s also an attractive opportunity due to the smaller footprint.

Are boutique fitness studios profitable?

Boutique fitness studios can be profitable in as little as 6 months after opening. Customers attracted to this type of studio tend to have disposable income and are comfortable with paying more for a luxurious and effective fitness experience. Other factors that support profitability include:

  • Customers expect recurring membership fees and no-show fees.
  • Customer attrition rates are typically lower.
  • There can be lower startup costs for a smaller space, including real estate, staffing, and equipment costs.
  • Growing health consciousness and preference for small groups, due to a global pandemic, are two factors in favor of small gyms.
  • There are boutique fitness franchise opportunities, like BODYBAR’s, that provide an established business model, location build-out assistance, and other support for being successful early on.

Will boutique fitness survive in upcoming years?

It’s smart to ask, “Is boutique fitness a fad? Is this right for me?” before you jump in. Fitness industry statistics point to resiliency, even in the face of a pandemic. Though global revenue dipped significantly through 2020, it started to rebound in 2021 and 2022, especially in the US. This growth is expected to continue, though it will likely be more slow-and-steady than it was in 2019 and prior.

How fast is the boutique fitness industry growing?

The industry is expected to grow nearly 17% between 2022 and 2025. And well over a third of industry revenue comes from businesses that are considered boutique. This spells greater awareness of this type of gym that’s likely to build in years to come.

How many boutique gyms are in the US?

According to a Club Intel compilation of data, there are likely between 70,000 and 100,000 boutique gyms in the US if you exclude fitness clubs. However, it’s difficult to find a firm answer to “How many boutique fitness studios are there?” because the definition of “boutique” has flexibility and is not defined in recent large-scale market research.

The Entrepreneur’s Perspective

How to open a boutique fitness studio:

Opening a boutique gym starts with selecting your service focus and making sure there’s a demand for it in your market. Then it’s onward to location selection, writing a business plan, permits and licensing, insurance, financing, location build-out, and staffing up! Check out more details and links to determine how to start a fitness business. And remember: Choosing a boutique gym franchise instead of a sole proprietorship offers many benefits that may appeal to you. 

How boutique fitness clubs can stand out:

If you’re wondering how to grow and build a boutique gym, clear differentiation should be the first item on your checklist.

Does a member enter the studio to Jennifer’s greeting, a snack bar, a trendy lobby full of plants, and no awkward line to wait for the squat rack? Show this to your audience. Focus on details that your competitors can’t match. 

Differentiators may include:

  • Pricing
  • Location
  • Studio design, ambiance, and cleanliness
  • Specially trained staff who get to know members
  • Unique, fun, and specialized workout experiences
  • Small groups – a sought-after characteristic of gyms in the pandemic era
  • Additional products and services (e.g., nutrition coaching, other wellness-related offerings)
  • The trends highlighted in the next section – keep scrolling!

In addition to documenting differentiators, plan how to market your business well before you kick it off. Our guide to marketing a Pilates studio applies to other fitness verticals as well!

What boutique fitness trends should I know about?

As the market becomes more crowded, boutique fitness businesses are leaning into attractive changes to their spaces and their offerings, such as these:

  1. Unexpected design and use of space (e.g., meditation rooms, views of natural areas, comfy lounges for socializing, biophilic design)
  2. Super-convenient technologies to complement the in-person fitness experience, like wellness tracking apps and virtual workout options
  3. Classes customized to specific injuries or medical conditions
  4. Athleisure and workout clothing products, or other on-trend merchandise

How many customers make a repeat purchase in boutique fitness?

Research indicates that members of boutique fitness studios go to their gym more than 100 times a year, on average. Only 7% say they go to their studio less than 12 times a year. In other words: Build up a loyal membership, and you’ll be rewarded.

Interested in a Fitness Franchise?

Why not a boutique Pilates studio? The industry is booming.

BODYBAR Pilates is a major player in this space, yet we’re a tidy-enough size that we can offer our franchise owners personalized support and guided build-out. Explore our franchise opportunity here, and contact us to get more information.