Last month we joined not-for-profit health body ukactive for the second instalment of SWEAT — an annual workshop in London, aimed at educating and empowering Britain’s boutique fitness sector.
The event brought together more than 250 entrepreneurs, boutique studio owners and influencers for networking, discussion and expert insight on taking boutique fitness to the next level.
Standout speakers included Emma Barry, Equinox’s former Director of Group Fitness and Welltodo Founder Lauren Armes, while panellists from major fitness brands including Ten Health and Boom Cycle, and exciting new boutique ventures like Run Junkie, discussed a range of industry-focused topics, including brand building, business partnerships and data insights.
Through engaging keynotes and thought-provoking panel debates, the workshop provided an opportunity for business owners to better understand the boutique fitness model and discover new ways to stand out in an increasingly crowded market and how established operators can begin to upscale and expand.
Speaking about the event, ukactive CEO Steven Ward said: “It was clear to me speaking to our delegates and listening to the debates, that the boutique sector has proven itself to be far more than a bubble that might burst, and that the next few years will see its continued growth and diversification across the fitness landscape.
“Everyone in the fitness industry is watching to see what’s coming next – and there’s a high chance the next big idea has just begun its journey here at Sweat.”
For those who couldn’t make it, here are some of the key takeaways…….
Innovation & Insights Are Key
Ukactive CEO Steven Ward kicked off proceedings with a powerful talk on the current state of the boutique fitness market.
According to Ward, the sector has proven it’s here to stay, however, he encouraged operators not to rest on their laurels, instead commenting: “we must innovate and collaborate for long-term success.”
In order to do so, he suggested operators take advantage of data and insights, form partnerships and never stop learning — a philosophy echoed in the Global Boutique Trends Report 2018, a report produced by ukactive and FitTech company Zingfit.
“We must act to take advantage of the wealth of data within the sector to refine business models and ensure our studios operate as effectively as possible. We must harness our expanding knowledge of customers’ needs to deliver ever more personalised fitness experiences, and to attract new audiences that haven’t traditionally engaged with boutique fitness,” argues the report.
Think Big & Act Fast
Emma Barry, Equinox’s former Director of Group Fitness urged operators to think outside of the box and take note of what competitors beyond the realm of fitness are doing.
“Fitness is in competition with entertainment,” she argued, explaining how those that choose to participate in boutique fitness classes have decided to prioritize their time doing that over other forms of entertainment such as watching Netflix.
With that in mind, she argued that operators need to create experiences and build spaces that are so magnetic people want to come back.
“Break the rules, choose who you are and own it,” she commented.
“Do that and you’ve won.”
Build A Community-Powered Brand
Community in its essence is about valuing and fostering deep relationships centred on service to others, explained Lauren Armes, Founder of Welltodo.
Boutique operators should listen to what their customers want, in order to shape and evolve their brand but also share their own story, she explained. So, find what makes you unique and think about how you can turn that into meaningful content for people.
“Millennials want to know who is beyond a brand and how they did it, so share what you do in a meaningful way,” Armes added.
This type of engagement will help to create brand visibility and loyalty, whilst expanding your understanding of who is engaging with your brand.
Push For Partnerships
When it comes to partnerships, if you’re not one of the ‘big guys looking to scale’ they are particularly important for business growth, explained Emma Barry.
However, if you want to stand out from the crowd and forge partnerships that target new audiences, Olivia Brafman, Head of Fitness at Ministry Does Fitness argues that operators should think more laterally.
“Lots of brands fish in a similar fitness pool,” she explained.
“But if you look at your customers’ overall lifestyle choices — where they eat, sleep, socialise etc. you can enter into more innovative partnerships with brands outside of the fitness space, that share the same target audience.”
This will allow you to position yourself as a thread of someone’s overall lifestyle choices.