How Boutique Operators Can Exploit The Globalisation Of The Fitness Sector


We’ve partnered with not-for-profit body ukactive to bring you regular insights into the trends driving innovation and opportunity within the UK fitness industry and the potential impact on the global market.

Covering a range of topics, from digital fitness to spreading boutique fitness beyond the London bubble, in the latest edition of the series ukactive examines how boutique fitness operators can exploit the globalisation of the fitness sector……..

Many would argue that the globalisation of the fitness sector began in the late 1970s and 1980s, with the arrival of the critically acclaimed ‘Pumping Iron’ film and the advent of various American aerobics programmes hitting television screens across Europe.

But the changes we have seen over the past five years feel entirely different. Indeed, global influences are being felt right across the fitness industry, in both the UK and around the rest of the world, and boutique operators have been at the forefront of these changes.

One of the first international expansions in the fitness world was Barry’s Bootcamp, which brought its exciting brand of intense workouts to the UK five years ago, run by British brothers Sandy and James Macaskill.

Read more: Barry’s Bootcamp Is Headed To Asia & Australia

Elsewhere, UK-based boutique studio operator TRIB3 is undertaking a major international expansion, opening studios in Moscow, Helsinki and Barcelona, with plans to launch in Asia by the end of the year.  

As Welltodo’s recent Global Wellness Industry Trend Report highlights: “driven by social media, e-commerce and the ability to conduct business online 24/7, fitness operators are finding it easier than ever to spread their wings in pursuit of global domination.”

Read more: Get Access To The Top Global Wellness Industry Trends 2018

And, as the London, LA and New York markets become increasingly saturated, casting the net wider is an approach even more operators are beginning to take. So how can boutique studios exploit the opportunities presented by our increasingly interconnected world?

Don’t Run – Adapt

You shouldn’t be afraid of global brands. Instead, take what they do best and apply it to your own studio. How can you build a family-style fitness community, like Barry’s Bootcamp? How can you attract investment for expansion, like Third Space? How can you grow rapidly without sacrificing your brand, like SoulCycle? Use these lessons to master your existing business plan.

In the case of F45, which is now the second largest functional training network in the world, Co-Founder Rob Deutsch has openly stated that his goal was to try and surpass CrossFit by developing something a bit more user-friendly.

Read More: F45 Ramps Up UK Expansion With Fifth Studio

The brand currently has a presence in over 30 countries including Australia, US, UK France, Dubai and China, and boasts over 100,000 members, proving that taking inspiration from existing operators can significantly pay off.

Maximise Home Advantage

Global giants may have the financial clout to expand quickly and aggressively, but a reason for boutique fitness’ roaring success has been its ability to inspire customer loyalty. Smaller studios understand their customers and local area better than anyone – keep ahead of the curve and use your local knowledge to stay relevant.

In the Asia market this is particularly relevant. A handful of globally recognised fitness brands have already developed a strong presence in the region. However, while cities like Hong Kong and Singapore may look to the west for inspiration, for operators like Barre 2 Barre and UFit, having a strong understanding of local markets including cultural differences, consumer preferences and pain points have helped them to cement themselves as leaders in the boutique fitness space.

Globalisation Works Both Ways

Just as major international brands can enter your local market – there are opportunities to spread your unique offerings further. Investors and local partners are more willing to back boutique fitness than ever, so this could be an ideal moment to expand. Do your research and identify areas where your fitness offering is lacking – there could be untapped markets for your services.

Explore emerging markets such as Latin America and Asia, or underserved markets outside of the fitness hubs in established markets like the US and UK. British operators such as Hotpod Yoga and Barrecore have found success by expanding into cities including Bristol, Brighton and Manchester, in order to satisfy demand from consumers searching for fitness offerings similar to those found in the capital.

Partner Up

Globalisation doesn’t always have to mean extra competition – it could offer opportunities for collaboration. Take Nike’s partnership with boutique boxing brand Kobox, which has resulted in a special edition Kobox x Nike shoe and an immersive fitness experience – Nike’s Unlimited You – incorporating sessions from Kobox and Barry’s Bootcamp trainers. There is appetite from global brands for collaborations – take advantage of it.

Further discussion of the opportunities facing boutique operators will take place at boutique fitness event SWEAT North, taking place in Manchester on 21st June as a key strand of Active Uprising. For more information on the event, click here.


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