There’s a new studio concept hitting the market, only this time the offering isn’t physical fitness – it’s mental wellbeing. And it’s being given the full boutique treatment: see page 46 of this month’s HCM for our report into the emerging trend of boutique meditation studios.
Given the rapid growth of the fitness boutiques, it’s hardly surprising that other aligned sectors have started to eye up the model and ask whether it could work for them too. But the extent to which the new-style meditation studios have mirrored the fitness boutiques is eye-catching, with their premium pay-as-you-go offering; an uber-cool, design-led experience; top quality sessions led by world-class instructors; and a focus on building a community around the brand.
Readers will be familiar with how all the above looks in a fitness boutique, but how does it translate into the meditation space?
Let’s start with the pay-per-class aspect, which is perhaps even more beneficial for meditation than it is for fitness. Previously, people would have had to commit to a regular course to learn to meditate; not always easy to find the time. But now they don’t have to worry. The new model is all about drop-in sessions – or what Unplug Meditation founder Suze Yalof calls ‘drive-by meditation’.
With consumers increasingly expecting the delivery of wellbeing to be experiential and high-end, these new operators have also recognised the importance of venue design. They’ve taken meditation out of its traditional environment – people’s homes, village halls and complementary medicine clinics – and are serving it up in beautifully crafted spaces with a serious ‘dwell factor’.
They’ve also recognised the role of community in a successful boutique; Tal Rabinowitz of Den Meditation in Los Angeles explains how her venue is designed “a bit like a hip, cool living room where people feel comfortable hanging out”; they serve tea and coffee during the day and wine in the evenings. This is meditation, but it’s meditation in the mainstream – normalised (indeed, the new “in” thing to do) and made accessible and social.
And all of this is important for health club operators, because for the most part it’s something they could replicate.
In our trend-spotting Fitness ForesightTM 2017 (see page 12 of the HCM Handbook 2017), we identified dedicated meditation spaces as an exciting opportunity for health clubs; the emergence of meditation boutiques adds further weight to this. Members already see their clubs as places to exercise out the stresses of the day; why not also cater for those who prefer to quietly decompress and wind down?
There’s certainly a good business case for doing so, both in terms of giving existing members another reason to visit and attracting new users – people who aren’t overly interested in honing their physique, but who would welcome an opportunity to unwind after work. Given that meditation boutiques are charging around US$25 per session, there’s also a secondary revenue opportunity here.
So how best to implement this? One option would be to create meditation zones in the club – quiet spaces where people could simply sit, undistracted by the TV or their list of household chores.
But as the new boutiques are proving, people are keen for guidance in their meditation. Another option might therefore be to create ‘club in club’ meditation boutiques, in the same way we’re seeing operators create ‘club in club’ cycling boutiques.
But there’s also a halfway house. Fitness industry veteran Tony de Leede recently launched ‘Move 123’ virtual classes – with virtual meditation included on the list of programmes (see p24). With these sessions available on-demand, clubs really do have the opportunity to deliver a ‘drive-by’ approach to meditation.
It’s time to get fully on-board with meditation and mindfulness.