Business Overview

Boutique gyms, also known as specialty gyms, recruit members for instructor-led classes or sessions on specific types of workouts. For instance, your business might specialize in barre workouts, monitoring heart rate, crossfit training, pilates, powerlifting, or one of many other special types of fitness programs.

While the traditional gym might offer many programs in a sprawling facility, and members tend to work alone at a time of their choosing, boutique gyms are more structured, and they offer members the chance to work out in an intimate setting. Participants in scheduled classes will be coached and motivated by a skilled trainer. As a boutique gym owner, you’ll therefore likely spend much less money on rent, equipment, and machine inventory, while also being able to charge more than a conventional gym. Additionally, you can develop more personal relationships with your gym members.

Who is this business right for?

You must be able to do much more than provide a facility and equipment. You need to be passionate about the activity you promote and lead, and have the ability to relate to customers of all athletic skill levels. You and your trainers will be coaches, instructors, motivators, counselors, and cheerleaders. If done right, you’ll get results for your members, retain memberships, and build positive word of mouth.

You’ll also be your own best advertising for your facility. Your own appearance is a billboard. So if you’re providing powerlifting programs, you’d better look like a lifter. If nutritional programs are part of the offering, make sure you’re trim and healthy.

What happens during a typical day at a boutique gym?

You might have six to ten scheduled classes each weekday, and a few more on Saturday. That means you and your team will likely have workdays that start early and end late. Here’s how your daily activities might break down.

  • Leading classes that could start as early as 5:30 a.m., depending on the availability of your members
  • Hiring, training, and supervising your head trainer (if that’s not you) and part-time trainers
  • Managing the juice bar, coffee shop, daycare facilities, or other related member services (if any)
  • Soliciting new members, especially during class downtimes
  • Cleaning equipment, restrooms, food and beverage areas—a critical concern of members
  • Managing social media to communicate with existing members, and to attract new signups

What is the target market?

In general, your members want to improve their health, appearances and/or lifestyles, and are passionate about fitness. This is apparent in their willingness to take direction, show up for scheduled classes and pay more than what standard gym membership might cost in your area.

Since boutique gyms can be much costlier than conventional health club memberships, you’re likely to attract an upscale clientele, along with members who simply feel that the cost is justified. Your customers likely prefer forming a community with like-minded members rather than working out alone, and will help you recruit new members with positive word of mouth.

How does a boutique gym make money?

Your main source of income will be memberships. You’ll sign up new members to six-month or one-year contracts, for rates that will likely be higher than gym memberships in your area—perhaps $100 a month or more. A smaller number of specialty gym owners charge on a per-workout basis. However, this fee schedule doesn’t encourage participation as much as a monthly payment, which is owed regardless of attendance.

Some boutique gyms also sell nutritional juices or smoothies, or offer coffee and healthy snacks after workouts for additional revenue streams. Some also have small gift shops where logo t-shirts, towels, or other apparel can be found. Other services can include childcare during workouts and nutritional guidance.

What is the growth potential for a boutique gym?

Growth is possible through the operation of additional classes, through greater participation in existing classes, and by establishing new facilities in locations with high growth potential. Be cautious about taking on too many members per class. If you lose the sense of individual instruction and shared community, you could lose members.

Check out this Market Watch story about boutique gyms that became so successful, they’ve gone public and added multiple locations.