The sustained growth of the boutique fitness sector continues to create opportunities for studio owners looking to grow their presence, and many of the leading boutique fitness brands are doing so through expansion on a local and global scale.
But whether a studio hopes to grow in its current space or by adding new locations, knowing when and where to expand requires a lot of research and is a huge undertaking, with many moving parts to consider.
At ClassPass, the fitness membership platform works closely with dozens of partners around the world to support their expansion efforts, providing data on opportune neighbourhoods as well as upfront capital to assist with build out.
Ultimately, this Studio Empowerment program helps to drive success and support the ecosystem of the boutique fitness industry.
Having accumulated the insights needed to prepare for and carry out a studio expansion that will ensure success, here the brand shares the key factors to consider when planning for expansion, no matter where you hope to grow your boutique fitness brand……..
Consider Your Current Space
When it seems like a new studio opens up down the block every other week, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of growing your fitness business. But, before you start scoping out new real estate, consider the state of your current studio or gym.
Have you mastered your existing business plan with effective pricing, a dedicated community, and a well-run team of staffers? It may seem obvious, but you need to feel confident that everything in your current space is running smoothly before you can transition your mindset to the next location –– because once you open those new doors, you’ll be managing multiple teams of staff and clients.
You will need to delegate work to trusted members of your team, which is not always easy to do, so make sure you feel stable in your existing set-up before preparing for that next step.
Assess Your Capital
Arguably, the most important aspect of preparing for an expansion is getting your financing lined up. Will you draw from your existing cash flow, take money from investors, or take out a loan?
Once you find the right place and secure a lease, the ClassPass Empowerment team can be a resource to provide upfront capital with preferred financing terms to top partners. ClassPass’ studio-facing blog After Class also offers some additional tips for increasing capital when you need it. You’ll need your financial game plan in place before you can start thinking about anything else.
Determine Needs vs. Wants
You may dream that your next studio will be situated in a high-traffic location, featuring exposed brick walls, showers and lockers for clients and a large entry with seating on a ground floor — all at a price tag that doesn’t bust your budget. However, it’s nearly guaranteed that you will not find a space that accommodates everything you want.
Going after a lofty list of aesthetic goals will often lead to a lengthy and disappointing search, or you jumping on the first space that feels exciting, but that may not be right for your business.
Before you start looking, create a list of what you absolutely need in a new space, versus what you want. Every space you see will need at least some customisation to fit your brand and style, so focus on the basics like location, the size and layout of the space, and the price. Beyond that, determine what’s nice to have versus necessary.
For example, if you know a complaint in your current space is the lack of showers, you can prioritise that in your next build out, as well as other realistic factors that can be tied to a true business need, such as potentially investing more to get a central location. This will help you to focus your search and be more efficient.
Build Your Team of Experts
Once you’re ready to kick off your expansion process, connect with fellow studio owners, lawyers, and real estate professionals to advise you on the next steps.
You’ll want to carry out some research into the area you plan to expand to, to better understand the demographics, including which studios currently operate there, whether people drive or use public transit, what genres are trending in the neighbourhood, and more. ClassPass is able to provide this information to exclusive partners as part of its Empowerment Program, drawing from CP user data and neighbourhood stats to pinpoint high-demand opportunities for growth.
And don’t forget to ask your fellow studio owners for references on brokers who’ve dealt specifically in fitness venue leasing –– having that expertise can be incredibly helpful when finding a new space and coordinating all the moving parts of lease negotiation.
It may take anywhere from 1-4 months to find a space — or longer. In the UK, the timeline of building out a new space can take up to two years, as the change of license involved can be very time-consuming.
Be patient with the process and don’t rush it, because you’ll likely need to commit to the space for anywhere from 5-10 years at a minimum unless you’re signing a subleasing agreement. You’ll also want to budget at least a month for negotiating the lease.
Contract the services of a real estate lawyer to review the lease on your behalf (they can be over 100 pages in length with tons of hidden details) so that you make sure your own interests are protected.
At the same time you’re working through the lease negotiations, you’ll want to start contacting vendors to help build out your perfect studio space. The process of customising your space can also take months, so make sure your budget, schedule and resources are prepared for inevitable delays.
To help maintain your sanity, coordinate weekly check-ins with your contractors to ensure everything is running to schedule, but be patient, knowing that materials will be delayed or out of stock, inclement weather will push back your timeline, etc.
Before you know it — or maybe 6-24+ months later — you’ll be in a new space fit to grow your business and welcome more clients.