As we approach Welltodo’s first Business of Wellness Summit on 4th June, we’re highlighting some of the global business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors involved in the event.
Shining the spotlight on brands that are shaping the wellness industry and influencing future trends, this week we’re focusing on premium gym operator Equinox.
Joining Welltodo at the BOW Summit, Gentry Long, Managing Director of Equinox UK will be taking part in a dynamic panel discussion focusing on the role of community in building a powerful global fitness brand. Equinox, a brand with a cult following in the U.S., Canada, and more recently London, will draw on their experience building and retaining a committed membership base through a broad range of strategies including various acquisitions, and compelling (and sometimes shocking) marketing campaigns.
Conquering the luxury fitness market to become one of the most exclusive fitness brands in both the U.S and the U.K, some of the steps Equinox has taken to build a global empire can be summarised as follows.
1. The first Equinox gym opened in New York in 1991. Owned by the Errico family, they eventually sold the business in 2000 for over $100 million to investment firms J.W. Child Associates and North Castle Partners, whose portfolio includes Barry’s Bootcamp and Octane Fitness.
Using the cash injection to fund a national rollout across major cities in the United States, real estate company Related Companies bought the brand in 2005 following a $505 million sale.
2. A pioneer of the luxury fitness movement, Equinox has diversified its brand by bringing popular Asian brand Pure Yoga to the U.S. in 2008, opening Blink Fitness, a chain of affordable gyms, and acquiring cult indoor cycling studio SoulCycle in 2011.
Most recently Equinox acquired Sports Club LA and Reebok Sports Club in numerous cities across the U.S, the brand said the acquisition acted as further evidence of its ambitious growth agenda, positioning Equinox in new markets and lines of business and continuing to cement its position as a high-performance lifestyle leader.
3. Making it through the recession unscathed, despite being priced at £180 per month, according to Equinox CEO Harvey Spevak, the brand owes its success to the fact it appeals to consumers who are financially able to withstand a slowing economy. He told the NY Times that gym fees are ”a small percentage of their overall discretionary spending,” and that the economic environment doesn’t worry him.
However, he did reveal that when planning expansion the brand targets cities with a higher percentage of wealthy residents.
4. Not growing just for growth’s sake, Equinox has been very disciplined with its expansion.
Currently found in the U.S, Canada and London, in over 80 locations, CEO Harvey Spevak says
Equinox is set to experience its biggest leap in terms of unit growth this year as the business prepares to open 10 new sites globally.
London is pitched as a big market for Equinox moving forward, with usage at the existing club at an all-time high. Equinox are currently searching for a second London location.
5. By fostering a community that views fitness as a lifestyle, Equinox has been able to justify its premium pricing.
“We think that the customers’ experiences are the substance of our brand,” Equinox chief marketing officer Carlos Becil told Business Insider, and their willingness to pay for these type of experiences has helped to propel the brand’s explosive growth.
Striving to create a 360 experience, the amenities and customer care at Equinox gyms encourage member interaction, add value to the consumer experience and help to foster client/consumer relationships.
Additionally, initiatives like the recent MOVE FOR MINDS campaign help the brand to permeate every aspect of its customers’ lives.
6. Not content on monopolising the fitness market with its portfolio of clubs, Equinox launched a digital publication, Furthermore, in January this year.
The self-sustaining editorial and advertising model is another brand extension for Equinox, ensuring it continues to engage with its audience through various communication channels, as well as connect marketers and advertisers with the brand’s fitness-focused demographic.
7. Set to launch a chain of own-brand luxury hotels, the first of which will open in New York in 2018, Equinox plans to capitalise on the enormous growth of the wellness tourism industry.
Targeting the same cash-rich clientele who frequent its gyms, Equinox eventually hopes to open up to 75 hotels world-wide.
Related, the company’s majority owner, expects to invest or raise “several billion” dollars for Equinox hotels over the next few years, a Related spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal, as the brand attempts to emulate the success it has achieved with its fitness clubs.