Why boutique gyms are shaping up as a city center staple

Boutique gyms are gathering pace in Europe – and getting the right look in the right location is key to their success.

November 08, 2018

From working up a sweat on a spin bike to rebalancing body and mind in a yoga studio, the gym is the place to be for today’s health conscious consumers.

In 2017, almost 60 million people were members of a health or fitness club in Europe – a big leap from just over 44 million in 2010, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.

It’s no longer a case of spending a solitary 30 minutes on the treadmill. Today’s myriad of modern workouts, whether high-intensity bootcamps or core-strengthening ballet barre classes, are increasingly taking place within the boutique gyms springing up across Europe’s cities.

“Boutique gyms are starting to compete with the traditional gym market, particularly in affluent city locations,” says Augusto Lobo, Head of Retail at JLL Spain. “There are more people interested in achieving a good fitness level at a specific sport like boxing or cycling and they want a challenging experience with specialist trainers and the latest equipment.”

And they’re prepared to pay for it as part of their wider health-conscious efforts: In 2018 the health and wellness market was worth close to €149 billion euros, according to Euromonitor. In the UK alone, millennials spend an average of £155 (€177) a month on health and fitness, a study from Myprotein finds.

Plus, with more pay-as-you-go models rather than standard gym contracts, boutique gyms have a particular appeal for busy urban professionals looking to squeeze in a class before or after work.

Honing location decisions

Location is therefore an all-important factor – and many boutique gyms are opting for central retail areas. In Madrid, for example, Calle Fernando VI in the central Las Salesas district, is home to three exclusive fitness clubs – Siclo, Tracy Anderson Madrid Studio from the celebrity fitness trainer and Clandestin, nestled alongside trendy shops such as gluten-free bakeries, independent fashion stores and hand-made cosmetics brands.

In the UK, fitness franchise F45 is joining the likes of other operators Psycle and Core Collective in selecting sites in busy locations close to popular retail and residential areas.

“Boutique gyms want the visibility and kudos of being located in the main commercial areas of Europe’s cities,” says Lobo. “It helps them to attract the type of customers who can afford their higher-than-average prices.”

In many cases, they’re a welcome addition to the neighborhood, helping to drive business for nearby retailers and food and drink outlets. “There is no doubt that boutique gyms enhance an area,” says Lobo. “They can help to drive footfall not only during working hours but also on weekends, early mornings and late in the evenings as they adapt they classes to the demanding schedules of their clients. And the types of customer they bring tends to have a high spending power.”

Creating the right space

Boutique gyms taking over existing commercial premises nevertheless face some challenges in finding spaces that meet their needs in terms of location, size and space. “The more central the place is, the more difficult is to find the ideal spot either due to higher rents or smaller square footage,” says Lobo. “Space distribution is also very important; boutique gyms need

high ceilings, open floor spaces which can be converted to studio space where needed, good air ventilation systems, and a visible frontage to show what actually goes on inside.”

Interior design also has a big role in encouraging customers through the door and keeping them coming back, from high-end changing rooms to lighting that wouldn’t look out of place in a nightclub. “The combination of materials, lighting, equipment and furniture must make the experience of going to the gym look energizing from the entrance,” Lobo adds.

And getting people to linger after their classes also helps build repeat business. UK operators Frame and 1Rebel, for example, also include retail zones and juice bars, which help to promote a sense of community.

“Gyms have become a place to both interact and sweat,” says Lobo. “Boutique gym classes are designed to be social and let people get to know their exercise mates. Millennials, in particular, love the community factor and the extra services such as wellbeing workshops.”

With health and wellness now a firmly entrenched part of 21st century living, boutique gyms face their biggest challenges in standing out from the crowd and coming up with new ways to stay on top of the latest fitness fads.

“Boutique gyms are settling in to be a familiar feature of affluent, urban markets around the biggest European cities,” says Lobo. “We’re seeing traditional gyms try to adapt to current trends at their own pace but there’s an ongoing appetite for boutique gyms among people – especially younger people – to pay more for a personalized fitness experience which enables them to feel and look good.”

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