Award winning fitness expert and author of The High Fat Diet, Zana Morris is founder of The Library Gym, The Little Library and The Clock, a collection of premium boutique gyms around London.
We met with Zana to learn why she feels this part of the market is continuing to grow and the secrets to launching a boutique offering in an increasingly competitive market.
The Fitness Network:
As the budget gym sector has eroded the middle of the market, how well do you think gyms at the premium end are justifying their much larger price tag?
I don’t even think you can compare them. We are not an ‘expensive gym’ but aspiring to be something else altogether – it’s like comparing a fast food joint to a private members club! There is room for both but it does not help either of them to make comparisons.
What we are doing is completely different – we are offering a private members club experience with true results and a very personalised approach to fitness and wellbeing in all its forms.
The Fitness Network:
What do you think premium gyms should be doing differently?
Someone once told me that a gym is just a warehouse that rents out equipment. In 99% of cases I think this is true, and the budget sector has boomed because it has the honesty to admit that – it’s no frills but their clients know that and accept it.
Also – gyms have traditionally been about lifting heavy weights, which until recently was a very male dominated world. Gyms were, therefore, built by men and for entirely functional purposes, so you can walk into any gym in the world and it looks more or less the same. But who said it had to be that way? Who says we can’t tear up the rule book and do things completely differently?
“Who says we can’t tear up the rule book and do things completely differently?”
If you’re going to sit at the premium end of the market, you’ve got to come at it from an entirely different angle, which is why so many boutique gyms are now flourishing.
The Fitness Network:
So what are the essentials to developing a great boutique offering?
1. Focus on results!
Just to be clear – our goal was not JUST to build a pretty gym!! None of our demanding and discerning clients would come back just because the space is nice! We get results – that’s the priority. But we get results within a fantastic space that caters to our clients’ needs and expectations.
2. Know your audience
Everyone who starts their first business wants to appeal to everyone, but your message becomes diluted and your voice is lost among all the competing brands. The very nature of being boutique means that you’re carving out a specific niche that you believe is currently being neglected, so you have to get really specific in your targeting. What is their age, profession, current exercise habits, motivation, etc…? We DO know our audience very well because we have a very personal relationship with them, we know our geographical area and we always listen so that we never stop improving.
3. Design something special for that audience
Once you are clear on that audience, you can then design something entirely unique to them. For us it was all about making people feel relaxed, looked after and getting their required results quickly and with minimum fuss.
“Once you are clear on that audience, you can then design something entirely unique to them”
There is of course the added advantage that by creating something so unique you encourage people to talk about it, which probably explains why almost all of our business comes through referral and PR.
I should also add that I have been lucky enough to be partnered by Karen Welman, founder of Pearl Fisher, the creative agency behind some of the world’s most iconic brands. We were therefore in a really strong position to take our vision and turn it into a stunning reality.
4. Realise that it’s not about you. It’s about your client.
A question I ask all new employees is “have you ever worked with the public?” It’s so important to remember that it’s about making clients feel good and that we are secondary! It’s key that the moment clients walk through the door they believe that you really care about them and their journey. This is also very good for business as it’s hugely important for retention. People are unlikely to leave you if they have that personal relationship, but without it you are entirely replaceable.