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From Orangetheory to F45, Boutique Fitness CEOs Talk State of the Industry

From Orangetheory to F45, Boutique Fitness CEOs Talk State of the Industry

The leaders of Orangetheory Fitness, F45 Training, Solidcore and Barry’s speak to ATN about the current state of affairs in boutique fitness and offer some predictions on what’s coming next
This article is adapted from a version that originally appeared in ATN’s 2024 State of Fitness & Wellness 2024 report, available for download here

Boutique fitness is booming post-pandemic as consumers embrace in-person experiences and community interactions. 

According to Future Market Insights, which projects the overall fitness and health club market growing nearly threefold to $302 billion by 2034, the boutique fitness sector is primed for explosion as Gen Z and Millennials seek more intimate fitness experiences

The future is undoubtedly bright, but boutique fitness brands do face some challenges, such as increased competition from new entrants, macroeconomic concerns including rising costs, and uncertainty over the rise of GLP-1 weight loss drugs.

Athletech News speaks with the CEOs of several top boutique fitness brands to get their thoughts on where the industry is headed.

Orangetheory Strikes ‘Balance’ Between Tech & Human Touch

As Orangetheory Fitness continues to expand across the globe –  the boutique fitness giant has over 1,500 franchised studios in 24 countries – it will do so by leveraging tech and the human touch to create a more personalized experience for members.

Orangetheory co-founder and CEO Dave Long believes brands that can strike the best “balance between tech and the human element” will be best positioned to succeed in the modern era. 

“As we move forward, the industry stands at a crossroads, requiring a shift towards more effectively blending digital innovation with the human elements that foster motivation and a sense of belonging,” Long tells ATN. “Leading with intention and a commitment to offering a unique and holistic wellness journey is crucial for any brand looking to make a lasting impact.”

Long identified “prescriptive fitness” as a key trend, with boutique fitness brands needing to offer their members “tailored, data-driven workout routines that cater to each individual’s unique goals.”

“Right now, we’re working toward enhancing our proprietary technology to offer more prescriptive fitness experiences. In our Orange 60 classes, for example, we’ve fine-tuned technology’s role in our heart rate-based interval training, fueling each member’s performance in the studio,” Long says, noting the brand is also eyeing “things like connected strength equipment and personalized training recommendations through our mobile app.”

credit: Orangetheory Fitness

On the human-connection side, Orangetheory will lean on its coaches.

“Our focus on expert coaching and fostering a supportive community underscores this balance, ensuring our members are motivated for consistent engagement and long-term success,” Long says. “This approach particularly resonates with Gen Z, as seen by a 200% increase in memberships from this demographic post-pandemic, who have shown an increased desire for community fitness experiences that merge social connectivity with physical health.”

Dave Long (credit: Orangetheory Fitness)

F45 Looks to New Modalities 

As F45 Training plots its comeback plan under CEO Tom Dowd, the functional fitness brand is leaning into the power of community, forming partnerships with brands like Whoop and Dr. B, and, perhaps most notably, expanding into new modalities. 

While F45’s bread and butter is functional fitness, Dowd identified wellness, recovery and nutrition as areas F45 is expanding into. The franchisor has launched education programs and will soon be debuting recovery and stretching classes.

“We’re looking to ramp things up with additional services like recovery and stretch classes,” Dowd shared. “Keep an eye on this space; we’ve got some exciting developments coming up.”

Dowd also noted the popularity of low-impact, strength-focused modalities like Pilates.

“The growing interest in low-impact training is something we’re keenly focused on,” he says. “We’re adapting through our recent introduction of two innovative new concepts: FS8 and Vaura. FS8 combines Pilates, tone, and yoga into a dynamic, low-impact workout, appealing to a broad audience. Meanwhile, Vaura delivers a unique sensory experience with athletic reformer Pilates, targeting the high-end market in urban centers.”

Vaura Pilates (credit: F45 Training)

Dowd mentioned the rise of hybrid work models as a challenge for boutique fitness brands in terms of scheduling classes and pricing membership packages. 

“It’s reshaping how people plan their days, so we’re innovating our membership models to match,” he says. “We’re thinking about flexible class schedules and online options—making fitness fit seamlessly into this new way of working and living.”

Tom Dowd (credit: F45 Training)

Solidcore Sees ‘Personalization’ As Key to Growth

As Solidcore eyes the ambitious goal of opening 250 studios by 2028, the Pilates-inspired boutique fitness brand will put its members front and center, with the help of technology. 

“Personalization at scale has become the expectation of our consumer – emails, text messages, offers, greetings in our studios are all expected to be built with the specific user in mind,” Solidcore President and CEO Bryan Myers tells ATN. “We’re excited to continue to invest in our data and technology stacks that will allow us to further meet our consumers where they are in a way that allows them to feel seen and well taken care of.”

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Myers says educating consumers about the surging but still “relatively nascent” modality of Pilates is a key goal for Solidcore as it expands, along with ensuring Solidcore stands out from competitors in a crowded boutique fitness market exacerbated by macroeconomic challenges. 

credit: [solidcore]

“The macro environment remains choppy and while consumers are still spending, they are being more selective with where they spend,” Myers notes. “That means, for all of us, our mission is to make sure our unique value propositions are clear and that we consistently execute at a high level in order to preserve and grow our share of wallet.”

Despite those macro concerns, Myers is bullish on the future of boutique fitness, and of the fitness and wellness industry in general. 

“Broadly speaking, I think our industry is in better shape in 2024 than in 2023.” he says, noting that consumers are more invested in fitness than ever, brands are more open to collaborating with each other, and the industry has “moved the needle considerably’ in establishing credibility before local and national governments. 

“This certainly doesn’t mean that there isn’t more work to be done, but I am proud of how far our industry has come in the time since COVID,” Myers says. 

Bryan Myers (credit: Solidcore)

Barry’s Believes in the Future of Cross-Training

Barry’s, known for its iconic HIIT workouts featuring a mix of cardio and strength training under signature red lights, believes its mixed approach to boutique fitness positions it for success in 2024 and beyond. 

“The desire to cross-train remains a priority for consumers, evidenced by the success of various aggregators across the industry,” Barry’s Co-CEO Joey Gonzalez tells ATN. “We also know that they are looking for health, community and experience. At Barry’s, we live at the intersection of these three key consumer demands, and offer three different workout modalities (Run x Lift, Ride x Lift, and Lift)  that provide our clients with a variety of differentiated experiences all in-house and true to the Barry’s brand.”

Joey Gonzalez (credit: Barry’s)

Besides workouts that incorporate both cardio and strength, Gonzalez pointed to the rise of GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic as a trend that boutique fitness brands should embrace rather than run from. 

“Many speculate this trend will have an impact on how people prioritize exercise, and more generally, health and wellness,” Gonzalez says. “The best line of defense is to educate people on the benefits of exercise, particularly those that cannot be achieved through medication.”

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