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Posted in Clubs

One of the most noticeable fitness trends in recent years is a new style of club, offering only group exercise classes.

These micro gyms often focus on a specific kind of workout, such as CrossFit, yoga or boot-camp classes. So is this the way of the future, or a passing fad? And are they a threat to your business, or an opportunity to grow?

It’s worth comparing micro gyms to the other big recent trend, budget gyms. Growth in the budget space has negatively impacted on the broader, more premium offering of traditional fitness clubs. However, the same doesn’t seem to be happening with the group exercise micro gyms.

In most places, micros aren’t damaging the business of the more traditional facilities. In fact, they may be widening the fitness audience. The boutique approach is bringing in members who may have been turned off by the stereotypical view of a traditional fitness club. Young men, for example, are being drawn to new-style micros like CrossFit.

But much like specialty stores supplement the business of a supermarket, these micro gyms appear to be able to coexist with the bigger clubs. There are some fundamentals of group exercise that appeal to everyone, once they are exposed to them: the ability to bond, to be motivated, to enjoy a workout through music, choreography, atmosphere and quality instructors.

The fact that group exercise micros have grown without eating into traditional membership rates suggests that either a new breed of consumer is being welcomed into the fitness industry, or that those with gym memberships are adding a micro gym experience to their existing memberships at traditional clubs. So rather than a threat, seeing what works well for micro gyms shows clear opportunities for larger clubs with a broad fitness offering.

Firstly, a micro can’t meet a member’s every need. You can cycle your way to cardiovascular fitness in a cycle-only studio, but you’ll need to head elsewhere for strength or flexibility training. Clubs have an advantage in that they can offer a range of group exercise programs on top of weights, cardio equipment, swimming and other activities. So many members will choose to visit both.

Secondly, the micro explosion has shown that consumers are willing to pay a premium to work out in a certain way. Traditionally, the club industry has given away group exercise for free while charging a premium for personal and small group training. But most micros charge per class, and some add a premium for reserving a spot. If you haven’t already, you should be looking closely at this. It’s an opportunity to profit from a new charging model for your group exercise offering.

Why not charge reservation fees to guarantee a place in a full group exercise class? Or, as some clubs are doing as a first step in this direction, charge for the privilege of booking a place in your most popular free-of-charge classes?

Thirdly, the loyalty and community that these group exercise facilities create is a good reminder of what drives people to group fitness in the first place: the old touch points of community, motivation, convenience, time and results. Make them your focus!

There will always be new exercise trends. What we have learned over the years at Les Mills is that by carefully observing what the newcomers do well, we can find new ways to help our partners evolve their own businesses in new and profitable ways. I encourage you to consider what lessons from the micro gym trend you can take on board.


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