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How to Design a Profitable Boutique Fitness Club

By: Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter

One of the most significant changes in the fitness industry in the past 10 years has been the growth of personal training, which has led to the growth of group training. Clubs that have put a strong emphasis on these areas have found that they deliver the most revenue per square foot in their facilities.

As a result, smaller boutique clubs specializing in this type of programming have become more popular. A boutique club is a small specialty club that focuses primarily on personal and group training and, in some cases, group exercise classes such as yoga, hot yoga, Zumba, Pilates and cycling. It is usually not a general membership club where someone can join and come in to run on a treadmill for an hour.

A number of clubs have learned the hard way that trying to be a specialty club that charges high-dollar amounts for training and group exercise while also selling general memberships is usually not a successful formula. This is because these clubs are smaller in size, and they do not have the room to be something for everyone, so they end up being a subpar boutique club and a subpar health club.

To run a successful boutique club, operators should commit to offering a more exclusive experience and design their facilities to make the most of the space available.

A boutique club usually ranges in size between 4,000 and 10,000 square feet, with the average size being between 4,000 and 6,000 square feet. The entry and reception area is smaller than at a regular club since there are fewer people using the club. Usually there will not be a front desk person, so the desk is primarily for trainers. To comfortably fit three trainers interacting with their clients at once, the desk should be at least 10 feet long.

Two offices are recommended, one for the owner or manager, which also serves as the business office, and another for trainers to interact with clients privately. An office-size storage space also is suggested.

Because of the smaller space, any boutique club less than 6,000 square feet should not have regular locker rooms because they take up too much revenue-producing floor space. The alternative is to have three unisex handicap accessible bathrooms, at least one of which should include a shower. In addition to the bathrooms, there should be several dressing rooms and an open area for lockers or small cubbies.

The personal training area should be at least 1,500 square feet, the group training area should be around 1,200 square feet and the group exercise area should be 1,200 square feet. If you want a separate group cycling room, it should be a minimum of 450 square feet. These sizes could be increased for a larger boutique facility.

When operated properly, boutique clubs make sound financial sense. However, this market segment will get more competitive, so what has worked in the past will soon be outdated. Boutique clubs of the future will have to offer an environment that is beautifully upscale, exciting and inspiring, especially because of the higher fees that are charged. The bathrooms should be spa-like, and the entry should be instantly impressive and include a small lounge for socialization purposes.

A boutique club has to look like it commands the higher fees that it charges. Make sure your facility has great space planning and an exciting environment, both of which will contribute greatly to your success.

As published on clubindustry.com, October 2013.