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How to Design a Boutique Club Within a Club

By: Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter

One of the most significant changes in the fitness industry in the past ten years has been the growth of personal and group training. As a result of this, smaller clubs that specialize in this type of programming have become more popular. These clubs, often called “boutique clubs” usually range in size from 1,500 square feet to 7,500 square feet and offer one or more classes, such as cross training, yoga, hot yoga, Barre, Pilates, spin, group exercise and personal training.

There are two significant lessons that larger clubs have learned from boutique clubs. First, is that they can be strong competitors “pulling” people away from the larger clubs, and second, they are able to get significantly higher fees than larger competition. For example, recently, the owners of a 16,000 square-foot club charging $29 per month, including spinning classes, were frustrated when a local spinning only “boutique” club at 2,500 square feet was getting $89 per month.

So, one of the things a larger club should consider to better compete is to offer a boutique club within their club. Much of what a boutique club has going for it is its “specialized” personality. It can often appear that the smaller club is better with what they offer even though the larger club has the same offering. This often is the result of how the specialized operation presents itself. The design and decor of the space makes the experience seem more special. Often, too, a boutique club looks like it is worth the much higher fees.

As an example, when you walk into a spin club, it is all about spinning. The lobby and room may have special graphics, lighting and sound system. There is not another focus, for often it is the only focus of the boutique club. These insights should then go into a club wanting to have a boutique club within their club. When doing a spinning room, “pretend” that this is all your club is about. What would you do differently?

It should be noted that the best way to offer a boutique club within a club is to group the rooms together, such as Barre, yoga and group (for a “mind body” area), spinning (which often needs extensive sound proofing) and group cross training. If a new club were being designed, this would be recommended. However, for existing clubs, rooms cannot be moved, but instead, they can be renovated to better accomplish this objective.

First, your offering should be looked at as special and not just another room. Are your yoga, group exercise or spin rooms only identified by just an entry door on a wall? The outside of the space should define the room as unique and special. It should have accent lighting, signage, possibly graphics and other architectural features and finishes outside the room that brings motivational attention to the room. For example, a soffit above the door and unique wall coverings, specialty finishes and lighting on the walls at the entry all would help emphasize the desirability of the room. Obviously, you would want to do the same for inside the room. Once again, depending on the type of program offering, specialty lighting, flooring, wall coverings, sound systems, storage areas (to keep a room clean and uncluttered), colors and dramatic graphics should be considered.

Regarding personal and group training areas, often these are out in the open floor space of a club. However, having different flooring such as turf or different colored rubber flooring, accent lighting (such as drum or track), a separate personal training desk and signage can all make the space more special. Because the walls of these spaces often get dirty easily, use attractive finishes such as laminate, vinyl flooring or carpet squares to add excitement and durability to the wall space. Plants are always a plus while helping to purify the air of the different toxins that come from the building materials in your space.

Consider different inspirational names for your group areas. Instead of calling rooms Studio 1, 2, etc., or spinning, use words that capture the imagination and provide a special image to your spaces, making them more “boutique,” like in nature. Suggested names for rooms or areas could be Commitment, Promise, Dedication, Believe, Focus, Heart, Energy, Thrive, Power, Vigor, Joy, Thrill, Bliss, Soothe, Tranquil and Active.

Boutique operations are forcing larger clubs with broader offerings to better focus on their different offerings. No longer do “plain and average” group spaces work. The question is what can be done to make your offerings as desirable as the boutique club offering? Clubs that have put a strong emphasis on these areas have found that the space they have allocated have produced the highest revenue per square foot in their operations. The need to better compete with boutique competition is increasing, yet a renewed focus on your similar spaces can result in some of the strongest assets for your club.

As published on clubinsideronline.com, June 2015.