Overcoming Top Challenges of the Boutique Fitness Studio Model

Owning a boutique fitness studio is extremely rewarding, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. It’s important to identify the unique characteristics of the boutique fitness studio model as well as how to handle the obstacles that fitness studios face.

The boutique fitness studio model is a business model built on group fitness sessions that offer per class charges or subscription-based memberships. Unlike big box gyms, boutique fitness businesses often offer classes tied to a specific fitness modality such as barre, yoga, cycling, etc. Consequently, they have a differentiated business model, taking advantage of proximity and location, class packs, and current fitness trends.

Fitness business owners face a unique set of challenges to operating their facilities. It is imperative that fitness studio owners identify these challenges in order to proactively overcome them and see success. First, it is important to identify the challenges that boutique fitness owners face.


What are the top challenges of the boutique fitness business model?

1. Lack of recurring revenue

Unlike big box gyms where memberships are both required and long-term, boutique fitness studios often offer a variety of ways for clients to attend classes. For example, some clients may purchase individual sessions or class packs, while others may opt for short or long-term memberships.

Some clients may choose to opt out of purchasing monthly memberships because they prefer to work out at various studios simultaneously, or because they are looking to try out a new fitness trend. Regardless of the reasoning, however, this poses a challenge for boutique fitness studios who may find themselves lacking significant monthly recurring revenue.


2. High employee/ staff turnover

Unfortunately, boutique fitness businesses often see high employee turnover, especially if staff are not engaged or don’t have the tools needed to succeed. This can be problematic for a number of reasons. Instructors often cultivate a loyal base of clients who will follow them to new locations. If instructors leave, members may too. Front desk turnover can be equally as troubling, because of the time it traditionally takes to get staff up to speed on systems and processes. Retaining front desk staff and employees is key to avoiding costly mistakes.

3. Saturation in the market

With a wide variety of niche offerings among boutique fitness studios, another concern for studio owners is the competitive landscape of the industry. The boutique fitness studio market is saturated with a wide variety of class types and brands that offer different training experiences. Because of this, consumers often frequent several studios at the same time.

This can be a scary scenario for many business owners, who find themselves not only competing within their own fitness segment, but across all other boutique fitness niches. And, with a low barrier to entry, there are studios popping up left and right. Your studio concept must have a competitive edge.


4. Facility maintenance

Boutique fitness studios can begin to see profitability within months of opening. However, it is critical that fitness studio owners anticipate the ebb and flow of maintenance expenses that come with the territory of operating a facility. Failure to stay on top of these costs will result in costly fixes down the road, so you must anticipate facility maintenance in order to properly budget for, and fix, problems as they arise.


How can you overcome these challenges?

1. Emphasize client experience

It is absolutely critical that you prioritize client experience to build brand loyalty among your staff, your clients, and your community. Utilizing a streamlined management software such as Upper Hand will reduce friction in the scheduling and transaction process, ultimately providing a seamless user experience that will keep your clients coming back and get your employees to stay.

Having a deep understanding of your clients, including where they are in the customer lifecycle and why they make certain purchasing decisions will allow fitness studio owners to make smarter business decisions. Thankfully, reporting tools are built into Upper Hand’s software, keeping your data readily available, easy to read, and updated in real-time.


2. Audit your current business plan and forecast

As a fitness studio owner, you must have a pulse on all areas of your business. From organizing studio offerings and client satisfaction to financial health and facility maintenance, your roles and responsibilities are broad, and you wear many different hats.

By strategizing your current business goals and visualizing your performance over time, you can anticipate hurdles before they arise. One way to do this is to ensure you have facility maintenance costs built into your budget. Again, turning to business reports will allow you to visualize the ebb and flow of your income and expenses and make well-informed decisions into the future.


3. Prioritize processes that cater to your staff

Your staff is one of your greatest assets as a boutique fitness studio owner, from attracting clients to facilitating operations. So, you must show your appreciation by listening to them and taking their feedback into consideration.

Additionally, ensuring that your staff is given the proper tools is critical to deliver a positive employee experience. Not only does this mean providing them with the necessary equipment, but also it also includes placing them in roles that cater to their strengths. Similarly, utilizing a management software will help eliminate conflicts with double booking, resource allocation, or scheduling.


4. Optimize memberships

While many boutique fitness studio-goers may opt for class packs or individual sessions, building a strong community of membership-based clients will help you secure income you can count on each month. By pairing memberships with perks that offer additional benefits to clients, you can increase brand loyalty while also building monthly recurring revenue.

When building out your memberships, the first step is to make the joining process simple. You want to eliminate a long application process as a barrier to entry in order to maximize the chances of clients signing up. By offering a referral or loyalty program, you can keep members engaged and active in your community.


At the end of the day, it all boils down to controlling what you can control. While you can’t manage whether an instructor will leave your studio, you do have an influence on the experience they have at yours. Likewise, focusing on your unique selling points and delivering an elevated client experience will promote client satisfaction. Thankfully, we live in a world increasingly influenced by technology, so there are a number of tools out there to help you streamline your business and combat the challenges that come along with owning a boutique fitness studio.



See why studios, gyms, and academies trust Upper Hand to grow their business. Schedule a demo today.

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