By Becky Yerak
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In 2015 there were 55.3 million health club memberships nationally, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. That marks the third straight year of growth as well as the highest level of memberships in at least a decade.
Less is becoming more when deciding where to make good on that 2017 New Year’s resolution to hit the gym regularly.
In an industry once associated mostly with big-box gyms, some workout enthusiasts and dieters are gravitating to “boutique” fitness centers or studios.
The growing segment is winning consumers over partly because of a greater willingness to provide access on more flexible terms. Some fitness center operators also are seeing success by offering group workouts that take the guesswork out of exercising and provide a greater sense of community — so much so that technology makes it possible to compare one’s performance against others in the class.
Meanwhile, the popularity of what were once considered niche activities like yoga and rock climbing is helping to fill empty retail spaces as that industry consolidates.
“Fitness continues to be one of the most active categories in the retail landscape” — and highly specialized, too, said Adam Foret, associate for real estate firm CBRE Retail Services. Niche workout clubs offering classes for about 20 people for an hour or less in spaces ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet are “as active as they’ve ever been” on the retail scene, he said.
Take Studio Lagree, which offers 50-minute full-body workout classes. It opened last month in a 2,200-square-foot space in Chicago’s Near North neighborhood. The Toronto-based business entered the Chicago area about three years ago and also has Highland Park and Lincoln Park gyms. It has signed a lease for a facility in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood that will open by early 2018.