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For boutique concepts, the tribal mix must work – yoga aficionados might not easily mesh with cycling clients strategies play a key role in our clubs, for the studio it’s entirely driven by word-ofmouth and social media – and specifically the micro social networks of the instructors themselves. The social media bang has to come from the instructors carrying on dialogue with their clients, not the studio itself trying to post. Have there been any unexpected issues when rolling out Edge? There were several, some of which remain with us even nine months after opening. For example, it was extremely hard to differentiate classes at the Edge from the classes we already offered in our three local clubs. ACAC has an established reputation for great classes, so it was hard to create a strong brand differentiation for Edge in the minds of members and consumers. The quality of the instructors is also critical to the studio experience: you need the best, most dynamic instructors in the market. Unfortunately, due to the small pool of instructors in the Charlottesville market and the fact that most of the best instructors already taught at ACAC clubs, it was hard to bring in anyone who offered anything more dynamic or inspiring than what our clubs already offered. In addition it was, and continues to be, incredibly challenging to foster a sense of ownership among the instructors. In a traditional studio, the instructors take a pride of ownership: it’s their life. In the case of our Edge studio, however, which is part of a larger organisation, it was

challenging to try and generate this same sense of entrepreneurship and ownership. Finally, there were challenges around offering three types of experiences whose tribes didn’t align. The mix of cycling clients, yoga clients and youth sports performance clients didn’t mesh, making it hard to create the tribal communities that are essential to the boutique studio experience. Has Edge performed to the company’s expectations? After nine months, the studio is still performing below our expectations. However, it’s continuing to grow as we address some of the errors that were made at the onset. What advice would you offer traditional operators who might be considering opening a boutique studio? Firstly, make sure the studio brand offers an experience that can be supported by the market. In particular, make sure you select the right offerings so you can foster the right tribal atmosphere. Make sure there’s a big enough pool of extremely talented and inspiring instructors to pull from. The instructors are critical to differentiating the product. Understand how important social media and word-of-mouth are to your marketing efforts, and in particular how important your instructors are to this effort. You need a grassroots-driven buzz by people who really take a sense of ownership of the product.

THE STUDIO BY LEISURE SPORTS Interview with vice president Erin Gilmour


eisure Sports opened its first club in northern California the early 1980s. Today, the company owns and operates six large, high-end fitness resorts with locations in California, Nevada and Oregon – two of which are aligned with premium hotel properties. The company recently opened a boutique fitness studio in Danville, CA, called The Studio – a high-style boutique club that offers three distinct training zones (mind-body, cycling and HIIT) served by five studios, along with full amenities, locker rooms, massage, child-sitting area and fitness equipment. Consumers can purchase a membership to The Studio by Leisure Sports for US$169 a month. What drove your decision to open a boutique fitness studio? The decision was a strategic one from the very beginning. We’d kept abreast of the growth in boutique fitness studios and, after we’d visited several, realised these studios were doing something our large clubs had trouble achieving at scale: providing a unique and engaging experience that fostered a community of passionate fans.

©Cybertrek 2016 healthclubmanagement.co.uk September 2016


Profile for Leisure Media

HealthClubManagement September 2016  

Health Club Management is the magazine and online community for decision-makers in the global health club, fitness and gym industry.

HealthClubManagement September 2016  

Health Club Management is the magazine and online community for decision-makers in the global health club, fitness and gym industry.