Once bitter rivals, boutique studios and big-box gyms are finding common ground.
The latest: New York Sports Clubs (NYSC), a chain of health clubs based in NYC, acquired Fhitting Room, an omnichannel boutique strength and HIIT studio.
Previously owned by Town Sports International, the NYSC brand was bought out of bankruptcy in 2020. Operating clubs in Boston, New York, and DC, the gym chain is attempting to engineer a turnaround — starting with Fhitting Room.
A 10-year-old concept known for high-intensity, kettlebell-centered workouts, Fhitting Room will continue to operate its on-demand digital platform and (soon to be) three physical locations.
But, as Fhitting Room founder (and now NYSC CMO) Kari Saitowitz put it, Fhitting Room will also play a central role in NYSC’s “glow up,” reimagining the embattled club’s brand, spaces, and services for high performance and social fitness. 20 renovated clubs are planned to reopen by year’s end.
Trading spaces. As consumer behavior shifts between IRL and at-home, brick-and-mortar operators are adapting.
Aiming to up the value, and keep membership dollars flowing, the boutique-in-a-box mindset is showing promise:
- World Gym redesigned its business around two new build-outs, a strength-only gym and a premium gym with omnichannel boutique classes.
- UFC GYM is selling franchises for a big-box, a low-overhead boutique studio, and a premium option that blends the two.
- Xponential Fitness partnered with LA Fitness, agreeing to install 350 studios within its gyms in the next five years.
Alternatively, during the pandemic, former cycling studio Swerve pivoted into a SaaS business, becoming a boutique production house for big-box gyms, including NYSC. According to Swerve CEO Eric Posner, its product accounts for 40% of all class bookings at partner gyms.
Looking ahead: While there are bull cases for both boutiques and big-boxes, the proven synergy of both (and competition for top talent) will lead to more partnerships and acquisitions.