emma Barry

Building a Badass Boutique

Being badass is even more critical now that we must collectively recover from the backhand delivered by COVID:19 and the restrictions that will ensue. The boutique sector, already challenged, can expect consolidation and reshuffling as businesses close to the line struggle to recover. Sturdy strategies and excellent execution will be vital to claw back business and market share.

We spoke to Emma Barry, global fitness authority and author of the best-selling book, Building a Badass Boutique about:

  • What it means to be badass?
  • What things owners need to think about now
  • What boutiques need to do to be prepared for the future
  • The trends shaping the industry over the next decade

What exactly do you mean when you say a “badass boutique?” What are some characteristics of this sort of business?

BADASS BOUTIQUE businesses are undeniable, formidable, locked and loaded for success to deliver their highly specialised offering. These businesses have mindfully built key journeys and a robust set of systems around them to build a path to profitability. They have win-win partnerships in place and display the key tenets of delivering great fitness: Rockstar teachers and a cult following, incredible programming that delivers on their promise, and high touch services that members appreciate and return for. They leverage technology to enhance and simplify the overall experience.

What are the top three things an owner needs to think about to design a fitness studio that rocks?

  1. Brand. I speak to these in the book through the concepts of Purpose (why do you exist), Pain (what solution are you providing for your community), and Positioning (how do you place in the market and against competition).
  2. Product. These are the tangible aspects that members value: People (the face and soul of the business), Programming (the training mechanism you have in place to get the results your promise) and Place (your backdrop for transformation).
  3. Systems. Everything happening in the business to make it hum: Processes (online and offline sequential actions to create frictionless commerce, seamless operations and the efficient delivery of an experience), Plan (the what, when and who lined up for each project) and Pace (the right business cadence to keep everything in positive momentum).

Like any great business there should be a playbook that locks down all the key ingredients.

What do boutiques of the future need to be prepared for?

The Coronavirus has highlighted the Achilles heel of boutique fitness and a more sustainable business model must now be built. High rents, unforgiving landlords, banks and lenders, along with slow or non-existent stimulus funds make it challenging to even go a month without being paid. And all of this on top of a PAYG model makes the hand-to-mouth economics unachievable as big boxes are also re-thinking how to make their clubs more enticing including heightened studio experiences.  The boredom factor and human desire for variety must also be addressed if the boutique offers only one genre of exercise.

A digital expression must be considered in the greater ecosystem of the brand to serve members not able to attend the club. This offers additional powerful touch points for members when they can’t make the studio in person.

What technology will drive boutique fitness in future? 

Technology enhances the experience before, during and after. AI (artificial intelligence) is able to collect and coordinate data points to better sell, market, retain clients and increase secondary spend. Booking and payment services are expected to be frictionless commerce. You won’t feel a thing as you spend your invisible wage invisibly in your curated life served to your preferences. In the room the light, sound, scent and general sensory experience needs to be on point.

What are the biggest mistakes you see boutique businesses making? 

Not linking services: class experience with customer service and fuller member journey. Overplaying one area and ignoring others. For example, clubs with superb programming that is so complex that it’s unable to be consistently delivered by different trainers or the technology cannot facilitate the experience seamlessly. Another mistake I see boutique making is expanding ahead of proof of concept so there may not even be unit profitability or even confirmed exercise concepts before new locations and expansion is financially committed to.

What trends do you see shaping the boutique industry over the next decade? 

  1. Consolidation (M&A activity), partnerships, and big-boxes hitting back. Also, aggregators delivering content in different forms like Xponential’s X-Pass which covers all of their eight franchise brands.
  2. Predictive tech. Boutiques already personalise the experience because of their sharp offering and the datapoints they currently capture and there is room for more. Many teams are not setup to do this type of work but specialists, like Keepme, can help.
  3. Sectors blending: health, beauty, ecotourism, mental health, celebrity-driven products and services.
  4. Big databases, deep pockets, powerful algorithms paving the way forward as they deliver end-to-end goods and services.
  5. More effective ways to encourage positive behavioral change.

If you are looking for more on how to build your badass boutique, you can find copies on Amazon.

Posted in Brand, Gyms & Clubs, Interviews, The Fitness Network.