How Boutique Operators Can Maximize Their Retail Offering

Simon Ingebrigtsen is Retail and Buying Manager at Ten Health and Fitness, one of the pioneers of the boutique fitness sector and London’s only premium provider to bridge the gap between the world of fitness and the medical sector. Simon has been in the retail industry for the last 15 years and has a proven track record of doubling turnovers for multiple businesses. 

At one point, he oversaw 88 sites across his native Norway and led his own retail consultancy company, “Simon Says.”

We spoke to Simon about:

  • How to determine the best brands to stock,
  • Trends when it comes to best-selling merchandise, and
  • What sort of return a boutique can expect when retail is done well

How do you determine the best brands to stock?

Know your customer. Not just in terms of what they do when they visit your store but visualise what the rest of their life looks like.

Think about things like where they shop, what they eat, what they read, what experiences they are used to. Once you have answers to these questions, fit the brands around this lifestyle.

Also, it is important to have a strategy that you stick to over time. Create a signature. It’s important to offer options but ensure the brands you stock do not cannibalise each other.

Also, consider the financial aspect of stocking a brand.  What can a supplier offer you? Good support? Attractive margins? Free stock for your team to wear? Consider the whole package when evaluating a potential brand to stock at your boutique business.

Is it better to create your own brand, stock a curated collection of other brands or a combination of both?

You can generally tell if the retail aspect in a fitness environment is run by a retailer or a fitness person running retail. I generally find that most fitness spaces that do their own line offer “merch” not athleisure.

This works well if you use it as a marketing tool and want the people that really buy into your brand to wear your logo proudly. However, this approach can limit your earning potential.

By providing people with options, you are more likely to capitalise on a bigger portion of people coming through the door.

The best option depends on what you want out of your retail section. If it is to maximize earning potential, then do both. If you must choose, buy from professionals that have invested far more into their products.

Most retail offerings thrive on distress purchases. How do you promote your retail offering as a shopping destination vs. just a distress purchase?

When selling in a closed environment, you need to rely on newness in order to generate interest.

Regularly swapping out styles, colours and changing the visual merchandising can help keep things fresh and keep people interested.

To be a destination, you need to have enough variation and styles for customers to associate your boutique with a shopping opportunity.

If you stock 10 SKUs of a single brand, it’s not likely going to be enough to encourage people to shop your boutique. They’ll just go online and buy what they want.

However, I also believe activewear like leggings and bras are very personal products. Being able to try them on is what gives you one-up on the online shops. However, it’s important to match the prices. The days where you could add a fiver here and there are gone. The market is 100% transparent and people are not loyal.

Are there any trends when it comes to best-selling merchandise?

The biggest trends right now are lifestyle pieces – that is, the clothing that you wear back and forth to the gym. These are the styles that showcase the fact that you live an active and healthy lifestyle. We see so many people shopping for leggings they can work out in and pop to lunch with friends after. Last year, leggings outsold jeans for the first time in history!

What can boutique fitness operators do to make their retail offering more appealing?

Invest in it. Ensure there is someone in your organisation who can own the retail offering as part of their role. They are the one that is responsible for sourcing the best products and also making sure it is well presented visually.

Think “lifestyle” when you present your retail offering. Show outfits, not just pieces of clothing. Add accessories like water bottles and yoga mats. Incorporate plants to breathe some life into it.

What sort of return can a boutique expect if done well?

If you are already paying for the space, every pound earned lands directly on your bottom line, but the return depends on your willingness to invest in it and also on how well you recruit and train your staff in selling it.

However, it doesn’t take much to turn over £30-60k extra per year and half of that can land on your bottom line.

At Ten Health and Fitness, we have grown our retail business by 200% in the past 2.5 years just by making it a priority and taking a retail approach to it.

Ten Health and Fitness stocks some of the world’s best athleisure brands including Koral, Lilybod and Thrive Societe, of which Ten has exclusive rights in the UK. Ten currently has a retail offering in seven of their nine London sites: City, Fitzrovia, Mayfair, Notting Hill, Chiswick, Hatton Garden and St James. The tenth will be launching soon.

Posted in Fitness Fashion, Interviews, The Fitness Network.