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Hydrow Discusses Acquiring Rival CityRow, Per Report

Hydrow Discusses Acquiring Rival CityRow, Per Report

As Hydrow looks to cut through choppy waters, it could become the latest connected fitness company to announce a deal

Hydrow, a celeb-backed connected fitness rowing brand, is reportedly discussing acquiring CityRow to nab its rival’s subscriber base.

The news of the potential connected fitness powerplay is still very fluid and may not result in a deal, according to a report by Bloomberg citing anonymous sources close to the matter. 

CityRow, founded in 2014 by Helaine Knapp, takes an omnichannel approach with its at-home rowers, digital offerings and in-person studios. The company secured a $12 million Series A round in 2021, meant in part to expand its company-owned and franchise studio model. At the time, CityRow reported a 375% revenue growth due to the sales of its rowing machines, monthly subscriptions and franchise sales. 

Hydrow, a Boston-based at-home rowing company founded in 2017 by Bruce Smith, offers a full-body workout that promises to exercise 86% of major muscle groups in a twenty-minute session. The company has found investors in private equity firm L Catterton and athletes and celebrities including Travis Kelce, Lizzo, Justin Timberlake, Aaron Rodgers and Whitney Cummings.

Post-Pandemic Struggles

While Hydrow soared to a reported valuation of over $1 billion in June 2021 during the at-home fitness boom and reportedly considered going public, the connected rowing company began reducing operating costs a year later to combat what Smith called “unprecedented economic circumstances.”

Despite issuing 30 pink slips at the beginning of this year, Smith maintained that Hydrow remained “incredibly bullish” on its future. It was the second round of layoffs for the company in six months, following 70 employees being given the ax in July 2022.

credit: Hydrow

In reference to the restructuring this past January, Smith told The Boston Globe that Hydrow was “leaning into this moment to achieve profitability while continuing to deliver even more exciting new offerings for our current and prospective members.”

Hydrow also decided to increase its monthly membership price for new members in the U.S. from $38 to $44, justifying the price hike as a means to elevate the Hydrow experience.

“We’ve never raised our prices— not once— even as we’ve added thousands of workouts, new workout modalities, enhanced our programming, traveled around the world with exciting locations such as Alaska, Norway, London, and Prague, and launched in-person events in the US and UK… To continue elevating the Hydrow experience, we need to increase our monthly fee,” Hydrow posted on its website.

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Connected Fitness Consolidation

If Hydrow does make a play for CityRow, it would reflect what appears to be a consolidation trend for the connected fitness space, likely inspired by ongoing challenges in a post-pandemic environment. 

Clmbr, a connected vertical climber, was recently acquired by smart home gym maker Interactive Strength, better known as Forme. The vertical climber company had been struggling, as seen with the closure of its Los Angeles-based fitness studio and layoffs.

Peloton and Lululemon also joined forces after both being saddled with connected fitness hardware woes. Lululemon officially gave up on trying to offload its connected fitness Mirror, finally putting the device out of its misery while Peloton has had to wrangle with not just a decline in revenue but serious product recalls. The fitness company’s seat post recall drama led to an influx of 750,000 replacement requests, considerably more than Peloton expected.

Hydrow declined to comment on any deal speculation.

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