“Can $40 dollar exercise classes save the attenuated American Mall?”
This was the sub heading on a 2019 New York Times article on the “boutique boom” that was occurring in the US fitness industry in 2019.
The article looked at how brick and mortar retail stores, shut down due to the competition from online shopping, are now occupied by fitness studios and health stores. These crumbling facades dotted around the malls and mains streets in America are now shiny, colorfully branded boutique gyms and studios, pumping out EDM as people stream in and out for classes on a daily basis.
As the article notes, the location of your gym can make or break your business as a gym owner. Two years on the landscape of the industry is much different. Digital fitness has changed the way people work out and many fitness businesses and fitness franchises have suffered losses and closures.
However the industry is bouncing back and there are signs gym membership numbers are returning to pre-pandemic levels. So while digital fitness has risen in popularity, it’s clear people are returning to an in-person experience.
If you are thinking about opening a gym business this year, your location is still one of the factors that will determine your success. In this article we will go through why your location is important, the factors to consider before choosing a location and some ideas for the best locations to open a gym.
Skip ahead to:
- Why is the gym location important?
- Factors to consider before choosing the best locations to open a gym
- Best locations to open a gym
Why is the gym location important?
It might be slightly dramatic to say but the location of your fitness business can determine if you will have a successful gym or not. The phrase “location, location, location” is often thrown out to emphasize the importance of the location of both residential and commercial properties.
The most expensive commercial rents are usually located on the main street in cities and towns across the world. The reason for this is simple – main streets have the most footfall and so these locations will get the most eyes. And while you may not be able to set up your fitness business on the main street, you need a place where you will be noticed by the right type of people.
Here are three key reasons why your location is so important.
- The facility needs to be within a convenient distance for your target market
- It will dictate what you charge for your membership – if the location is in an affluent area you will be able to charge more and vice versa.
- The location will affect how much you invest in your business. A more prominent location will cost more. Or a completely bare location will need significant investment in terms of renovations and fitness equipment.
Factors to consider before choosing the best locations to open a gym
Finding the right location to set up your gym business can be a hard process. You may find a location that “feels” right but there are so many factors to consider before making the final decision. Here we will go through a number of these factors.
Who your members are
Before you even open the doors on day one, decide who your target market will be. One of the most common mistakes that fitness business owners make is to be all things to all people. Focus on providing a singular service for your ideal type of member.
Once you have decided on who your ideal member is, it should be easier to pick what kind of location you need to be successful. For example, if you are a boutique studio that offers high priced fitness classes, you want to be in a built up urban area where big companies are located. Here you will get access to a market of young professionals with money to spend.
Think about the location you’re interested in and how visible it is to the public. If you’re in a remote town or village, it might be harder to attract members. Or if you choose to locate your gym in a city, then you need to be in a happening place where people can easily spot your gym.
If you’re in a standalone building, then the business will be more noticeable. And if not, you might want to consider what landmarks beside the facility that people can easily identify. For example, when you’re explaining your location to potential clients or people enquiring, you can point to something recognizable like a monument or a well known shop.
Most of your potential gym members and staff will probably come to your gym via car. If you don’t have suitable parking, people might not be motivated to come, and your gym business will be less convincing to prospective employees to work there.
When looking at parking for your gym, you will also want to make sure there is enough space for people to enter and exit the property straight away without having to be in a traffic jam.
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Size of the gym
Size has to be one of the first things you consider when looking for a space to open your gym. Before you choose, think about the services you’re going to offer and the gym equipment and cardio equipment you need. This will give you a good indicator of how many square footage you’ll need and the levels you’ll want. The experience and atmosphere all come down to size, and you don’t want to have a gym that lacks that, so think about your square feet carefully.
Remember, also factor in your country’s social distancing rules per machine. For example, in Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, their city’s rules vary between two, four, and eight square meters for each machine. Therefore remember to think about your local councils and the number of machines you want in your gym.
While owning a gym isn’t a monopoly, and competition in the fitness industry can be healthy, you don’t want to be next door to another gym owner or an established gym franchise like Crunch Fitness or Anytime Fitness The minimal competition will help you keep loyal clients and secure new ones easily.
If you have local competition near you, it will most likely encourage members and potential ones to check it out and compare services and prices. So before you go and establish your gym, you must conduct a detailed market analysis to give you an idea of who you’re up against and if it’s sustainable to operate a fitness club in that space.
As we discovered in our article on counting the cost of opening a gym, the cost to open a fitness facility in the US is around $10,000 to $50,000 dollars on average. A large part of this will be used to secure premises for your business. If you spend too much money and overcommit, it’s more than likely you’re going to have to cut back on other parts of the business.
The location is going to talk up a huge part of your operational costs so consider everything both inside and outside of the location. You could potentially run into the dilemma of having found a great location with a lot of work to do with the interior. In this case you need to make your investments carefully.
Best locations to open a gym
Now you have an idea of what factors are important when opening a gym; it’s time to think about potential locations. Some of the best locations to choose are:
Boutique fitness studios typically target a particular demographic of fitness enthusiast. Their target market is young professionals in their mid to late twenties with excess cash to burn. Young people today care more about their health and fitness than generations before so there is huge potential in this market.
To access this market, however, you need to be in the right area. Business districts where there is a build up of companies will provide a big market for you to target. There will be increased competition in these areas also so you will need to be aggressive with your marketing to stay ahead of commercial gyms in the area.
College and university campuses
College and university campuses also provide access to a younger market keen on health and fitness. The only difference here is the market will have less disposable cash on hand. Think of reaching out and building partnerships with the higher education facility in your area so discounts can be offered to students.
At NYU alone, 55% of students claimed their biggest difficulty is stress from academia.So many teenagers, twenty somethings, constantly want to live an active lifestyle, better their wellness and do something productive to take them away from their study periods. Plus, colleges can have 5000-15,000 students on average, and that’s not even factoring in the faculty; it could be a big income earner for your business.
As we looked at in the introduction to this article, gyms and fitness studios are starting to find their home in empty retail spaces in shopping malls across the US. This newly empty space is down to the fact that a lot of retail has moved online. On top of that Covid-19 has accelerated the closure of a lot of businesses, meaning commercial space is now widely available in places like shopping malls.
Setting up your gym in a shopping mall could be a real game changer as it increases your exposure. If people are browsing and walking around shopping, they’re more than likely going to bump into your gym, allowing you to get potential customers you wouldn’t have got through advertising. Finally, a shopping mall could save you money by using shared amenities such as parking, security, maintenance, and more.
Near businesses in the health and wellness space
When looking for a location it would be a wise idea to set up near businesses that are in a similar industry. Now this isn’t always possible but it would be ideal to be around places like health food stores and restaurants, a health club, sports physiotherapists, wellness shops and even fitness businesses that won’t be direct competition.
This kind of area will bring the kind of footfall that would be interested in your services. There is also potential for partnerships with these kinds of businesses. For example you could partner with a nearby sports physiotherapist and offer discounts to each other’s clients.
Overall, location is everything for a gym owner, and you should take time to consider the area you want to set up. Remember to factor in your cost, competition, visibility, parking, size, construction, and more. Once you’ve done enough market analysis, think about your prospective location. Often the best locations are close to as many neighborhoods as possible to encourage people to travel to your new gym.