LONDON, United Kingdom — Despite the growing challenge from at-home, on-demand US cycling colossus Peloton, boutique spin studios are fighting back as Psycle, Boom Cycle and now SoulCycle have all announced plans for new openings in London this year.
Having debuted its first international studio in Soho this June, the New York-based company will open three new studios in the capital starting with Notting Hill in the autumn, then Chelsea in the winter and finally Marylebone by early 2020.
A statement on the new openings from SoulCycle read: “Each location will feature bright and beautiful retail spaces offering SoulCycle’s lifestyle apparel collections, including Soul by SoulCycle, the brand’s highly sought after, in-house line of performance and lifestyle apparel.
“Like the Soho studio, the new locations will be free of plastic water bottles and guests will be encouraged to bring their own bottles and fill at water stations in the studio.
“The Good Life Eatery will be at each location offering guests freshly produced healthy post-ride smoothies and snacks, and partner brands such as Le Labo, Drunk Elephant and Dyson will help create the unparalleled hospitality experience SoulCycle is known for.”
UK BOUTIQUES IN A SPIN
Despite the recent announcements, 2019 has been a year of flux for the indoor cycling market, both in the UK and overseas.
In June, Psycle was forced to close its Canary Wharf studio, blaming delays to the opening of London’s Crossrail station. However, it quickly bounced back with plans to open its first west London studio in Westbourne Grove, “complete with 52 bikes, a spacious Energy Kitchen and the amazing energy that Psycle is known for”.
In contrasting fortunes, this week American spin studio Flywheel announced it will be closing 11 underperforming spin studios across the US this month – about a quarter of its locations across the country – due to fierce competition from more accessible exercise alternatives, principally Peloton.
Flywheel attempted to retain customers who prefer at-home classes by making its stationary bike available to buy through Amazon, but this lead to a copyright infringement lawsuit with Peloton who allege Flywheel copied its unique technology.
PELOTON AND THE CHASING PACK
The challenge to indoor cycling boutiques from digital home exercise alternatives has gathered momentum, with London’s 1Rebel which recently partnered with Technogym to stream on-demand cycling classes at home, recognising the increasing opportunity to reach new customers outside its studios.
Earlier this month SoulCycle followed suit, announcing plans for a “first-of-its-kind digital platform for on-demand fitness content” with CEO Melanie Whelan adding it “will work seamlessly – digitally and across our brands’ physical locations – to deliver personalised experiences and immersive content from the best brands”.
With the market becoming increasingly saturated, the need to innovate as well as collaborate with like-minded brands to keep members engaged and excited has never been greater.
Boom Cycle has been active on this front, partnering with Redbull for a series of “Riddim Rides” to kick start Notting Hill carnival in 2016 and through Santander’s “Spin Up London”, hosting classes across London’s famous landmarks such as The Shard, Tower Bridge and Kensington Roof Gardens.
Naomi White of Naomi White Communications, who has worked closely with Boom Cycle for the past five years, believes this collaborative spirit is vital to stay relevant. “From a PR perspective, it’s essential that boutique studios are constantly innovating and engaging their communities in ways that add value beyond their core offering.
“Brand collaborations are a great way to introduce new riders [to your studio]and enables us to further promote our values to a wider audience,” White told Welltodo.
BUSINESS IS BOOMING
Despite the shift towards digital alternatives, Robert Rowland, co-founder of Boom Cycle, who will shortly be opening his fifth London studio at Waterloo, believes the indoor cycling market is in a great place.
“I can’t speak for others and the market overall but we’re certainly seeing fantastic growth across all studios,” Rowland told Welltodo. “Even Holborn, our most mature site, is running at double-digit year on year growth. All our studios produce good site profit margin which is growing rapidly, so we will look to accelerate expansion next year.”
Rowland for one is relishing the increasing competition from the likes of SoulCycle. “We’re excited they are here. It shows a really positive sign of enthusiasm in the market and the indoor cycling sector specifically. Myself, [co-founder] Hilary [Rowland] and our whole board are really bullish about the future as well and excited for what is shaping up to be a busy 2020.”
Although Rowland insists at-home on-demand cycling brands such as Peloton are “chalk and cheese” compared with the spin studios and have had little impact on their audience, he is wary of increasing economic challenges in what is becoming a “crowded, competitive market that’s exploded in a short time”.
He said: “Certainly we worry about the stagnation of wage growth in the UK but our pay-as-you-go model is quite hedged against that as people tend to cancel subscriptions first.
“Business rates also worry me. Such drastic increases are not workable for any brick and mortar business and need an overhaul. Finding property at workable prices can be tricky but we’re already seeing, and working with, plenty of good developers who know what businesses in this sector can afford and work with us to create an amenity that people want and that adds value to their development’s retail mix.”
Scheduled to open in September, Boom Cycle’s Waterloo site will be its biggest to date at 6,000 sq ft. Located directly behind London’s top landmark, the London Eye as part of the Southbank Place development and opposite the northern entrance to the UK’s busiest station, Waterloo.
Hollywood studio concept, Studio Lagree, will also be taking an exclusive space under the same roof, its fourth location in the capital.