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BFT Franchisees Find Boutique Fitness White Space

BFT Franchisees Find Boutique Fitness White Space

Originating in Australia in 2017 and acquired by Xponential Fitness in late 2021, BFT is quickly expanding across the U.S.

Discovering untapped markets is key to any successful business venture. For aspiring boutique fitness franchise owners, finding an open field is becoming increasingly challenging as copycat and cookie-cutter concepts proliferate.

Boutique fitness franchisees are often faced with a double-edged sword: if you find a truly innovative concept with room for growth, it’s usually filled with risk if the brand is not fully proven out. On the other hand, if you go with an experienced franchisor, there’s typically fierce competition for territory.

There are always exceptions, though, and Body Fit Training (BFT) stands out as one such outlier. 

Originating in Australia in 2017 and acquired by Xponential Fitness in late 2021, BFT has been rapidly expanding in the U.S. over the past 18 months. This unique positioning offers American BFT franchisees the advantage of partnering with two established brands – Xponential, a leading boutique fitness franchisor with over 3,000 open studios, and BFT, which is already very popular in Australia and other parts of the world. Moreover, franchisees enter the market at an opportune time, capitalizing on the rising popularity of strength training in the U.S. among men and women of all ages. 

“You’re hitching your wagon to Xponential with our leadership and experience in this space, along with what I would call a mature brand (in BFT), but you get pretty open territory in the U.S.,” says Lance Freeman, Xponential’s President of Franchise Development. “It’s just a phenomenal opportunity that you don’t get a lot.” 

BFT offers group-style strength and conditioning classes led by expert coaches and split into eight-week training blocks so members can measure their progress over time. Classes include some combination of compound weight lifting exercises like deadlifts, bench presses and kettlebell swings, bodyweight movements like box jumps and pull-ups, and cardio work including running, cycling and rowing. BFT also leverages heart-rate tracking tech to gamify workouts and keep people engaged in class.

According to Freeman, BFT essentially fills the gap in the boutique fitness market between a brand like Orangetheory Fitness on one end, which offers group-based classes and gamification but is mostly focused on HIIT and cardio, and CrossFit on the other, which uses functional strength training movements but is highly competitive and thus only accessible to a small percentage of the population. 

“It truly is white space, there’s not really another nationally franchised model doing what BFT is doing on this level with a progressive eight-week program, and this amount of IP, science and technology, all wrapped into a community-centric brand with the backing of a parent company like Xponential,” Freeman says.

Lance Freeman (credit: Xponential Fitness)

BFT Is Growing Fast

Freeman’s comments are backed up by BFT’s performance in North America so far. Since Xponential began franchising the brand, BFT is enjoying early franchise sales growth that’s on par with or better than Xponential’s other brands, including top performers like StretchLab.

“It exceeded our expectations in terms of the growth trajectory,” Freeman says of BFT. “It’s our fastest-growing brand today.” 

So far, Xponential has sold just over 300 franchise licenses for BFT in the U.S., with 20 studios already opened. 

Freeman says the total addressable market, or TAM, in the U.S. for most Xponential brands, including BFT, is around 1,000 locations initially, with further potential growth as the brand matures, studios open, and follow-up analysis takes place. BFT is almost one-third of the way there already, but it still has a ways to go and with the current demand for strength training, that’s exciting. 

Franchisees Embrace Strength Training 

There’s still time for franchisees to get in on the action while large swaths of territory remain open across the country. Freeman says that while BFT is seeing high demand from franchisees who already own other Xponential brand locations, there’s also very strong interest from those who are new to the Xponential system. 

Those looking to own a BFT tend to show a genuine interest in strength training, which speaks highly of the modality’s popularity in the fitness community and American culture at large. 

“We hear so much from investors looking at BFT who will say, ‘That’s the workout that I do,’ so they really relate to the brand and connect with it,” Freeman says.

credit: Xponential Fitness

While it’s good to have a passion for and connection to strength training, Freeman says BFT franchisees don’t need to have prior fitness industry experience. In fact, that situation is rare, as Xponential franchisees tend to have corporate and managerial backgrounds.

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Besides the requisite financial resources  – around $500,000 in net worth and $100,000 in liquidity – Xponential looks for franchise owners with strong business acumen, leadership and management skills. 

“We don’t want our business owners to be an employee in the business,” Freeman says. “We expect our owners to be able to manage the manager well and manage the business by the KPIs, that’s the seat that we want them in. The ability to build a winning team culture in the business is key, as is having good people skills in general.”

Systemwide, around 85 to 90% of Xponential franchisees opt to become multi-unit owners and purchase the rights to open a “three-pack” of locations in a given area. That trend has held true for BFT.

“We will award a single, it’s just we don’t see a lot of them,” Freeman says. “Most people are looking to scale over time and really control where they do that.”

credit: Xponential Fitness

For franchisees looking to get into boutique fitness, especially those with a connection to or passion for strength training, Freeman says there isn’t an opportunity out there that’s better than BFT.

Besides the ability to get in on the ground floor of a top strength training concept with the proven ability to grow in other markets, Freeman notes that many of Xponential’s company-wide KPIs are at an all-time high, including average unit volume (AUV), top-line gross revenue per studio (systemwide sales), and memberships. 

“We’re really pleased with where our business is today,” he says. “We have some big tailwinds at our back right now and are excited about 2024 with new things coming down the pike.”

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