Do Barry’s & Other Studio Openings Point To Wellness Industry Recovery?

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  • Barry’s set to open seventh London studio in Soho in September with exclusive new LIFT concept later this year – Five months later than planned due to the UK lockdown
  • House of Wisdom opens as “a first-of-its-kind self-development wellness space in the heart of London”
  • “We believe that it is our duty to do everything that we can to ensure that as a community we will be able to continue to operate,” says co-founder Stephanie Reynolds 

LONDON, United Kingdom — The wellness industry in London is showing signs of recovery as new concepts continue to be unveiled and new openings scheduled – albeit with limited capacity to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Last week Hotpod Yoga announced it would launch a new Mini Pod system for solo yoga practice in-studio, while Digme Fitness revealed it would open two central London studios acquired from Another Space. 

Read More: Hotpod Yoga Launches Innovative ‘Minipods’ To Combat COVID Limitations

Now pioneering boutique studio Barry’s has announced it is set to open its seventh London location since launching in the UK in 2013, as new wellness concept House of Wisdom finally opens its doors having delayed its planned March opening due to the pandemic. 

Beyond the capital, franchise HIIT boutique TRIB3 is set to open three new locations in Manchester and Bristol, while in Milton Keynes, husband and wife team Paul and Jess Tomlinson have invested £1m to launch Fierce, a 20,000ft super gym with a capacity of 2,000 people. 

Private Versus Public Sector
While the new openings are positive signs for the private fitness sector, having been rocked when UK gyms were ordered to close on the 21st March, these are tentative first steps on the industry’s road to recovery. 

Industry bodies have warned of especially perilous times for public fitness facilities in the UK due to the pandemic. Community Leisure UK has estimated that 48% of all public leisure facilities face closure, along with more than 58,000 jobs. 

Trade body ukactive has reported that membership cancellation rates have risen to 15-23% and the District Councils’ Network, which represents 187 district councils in England, has warned that the sector is expected to lose about £305m this year. 

Notable private sector casualties have been boxing studio 12X3, which recently announced the permanent closure of its Paddington location, and Studio Lagree has yet to reopen its three London sites. 

The big chains aren’t exempt either. Earlier this month DW Sports, which owns Fitness First and operated 73 gyms across the UK, was forced to announce it would be entering administration

The decision puts 1,700 jobs at risk as all its 75 stores are to close, but DW said Fitness First gyms would not be affected and it would work with administrators to save as many DW gyms as possible. 

In the US, which is still reeling from escalating daily infections, COVID-19 has caused irreversible damage. Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide both filed for bankruptcy. New York Health & Racquet Club permanently closed its five Manhattan locations, and in June Tilton Fitness shut its seven New Jersey spots. 

New Jersey and North Carolina remain the only states in the US where clubs remain closed with no planned opening dates. As a result, Retro Fitness, which had 61 clubs in New Jersey as of March, now has 52, with hundreds of employees having lost their jobs.

Do Barry's & Other Studio Openings Point To Wellness Industry Recovery?

Image: Barry’s

House of Wisdom
Despite these testing times, House of Wisdom co-founder Stephanie Reynolds believes the wellness sector can take the lead in helping rebuild confidence and bring people back into the studio environment. 

“At House of Wisdom we believe that it is our duty to do everything that we can to ensure that as a community we will be able to continue to operate,” she told Welltodo, explaining how the launch was put on hold in March after months of preparation and almost two years of planning. 

“It was a hard decision for us to make. However, we decided that it was the best decision for the safety of our community and to support them as much as we could during this timeframe. 

“Almost five months later and we are so excited to be opening our doors and welcoming people into the space.” 

Having finally opened its doors on Euston Road this month, the 2,500 sq/ft site has been described as “a first-of-its-kind self-development wellness space in the heart of London”, combining wellness talks and workshops with classes including gong baths, sattva yoga, breathwork and shamanic healing. 

“At House of Wisdom, our purpose is to create a community of change-makers, who can support and inspire each other, as we learn to flourish, thrive and become connected to who we really are,” says Reynolds. 

“We believe House of Wisdom provides people with a space that is accessible to all. Our founders and teachers are all people that have found practices that have helped them and wish to share this with the community. 

“Now more so than ever we believe this is needed and can see that despite the delay this is the right time for us to launch. Everything happens at the right time.”

New Barry’s Concept
While House of Wisdom is all-new, more established operator Barry’s is also launching a novel strength training class concept called LIFT, exclusive to its Soho studio later this year. 

Sandy Macaskill, co-owner of Barry’s UK, said: “It’s been a hugely challenging few months for the industry which makes this opening so much sweeter. This is one of our most exciting moves. The vibrancy of Soho really aligns with the energy of the Red Room. 

“The introduction of LIFT is something we have been talking about for a long-time, and with the evolution of the fitness industry we felt it was important to ensure our clients are continuing to receive an exciting and dynamic workout, giving our community more flexibility on their fitness journey.” 

The Soho studio is set to open its doors on 12th September and will initially be running at 50% capacity to adhere to social distancing and in line with government guidelines. 

A number of additional measures will also be in place to ensure the safety of staff and clients while Barry’s At-Home, Barry’s digital home-based workout, will continue to be offered in the UK. 

Post COVID-19 it seems that as one door shuts, another opens for the boutique fitness sector. 

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