Boutiques are a change, not a trend, and the public and private health and fitness sectors are responding with their very own offerings, either disrupting themselves by creating new concepts or partnering with existing operators.
At the top end, David Lloyd Leisure launched Blaze; so successful that their first standalone studio has now opened in the city of Birmingham.
In the mid-market, Bannatyne have taken the Speedflex concept in-house, whereas the low-cost market has seen énergie creating Yard to add value to their offering.
In the public sector, Everyone Active are pushing towards a ‘boutique in a big box model’, with the opening of their first F45 studio partnership in Maida Vale, London, at the end of 2019.
Everyone Active’s also secured a partnership deal with MoreYoga, and 2020 will see them launch their new boutique format Fortis, powered by Speedflex.
With boutique studios continuing to disrupt and re-shape (no pun intended) the industry over the past 12 months, I joined my team at The Leisure Database Company to try out as many of the new boutique concepts as we could cram in. In no particular order, here’s our highlights.
Boom Cycle opened their fifth studio at Waterloo in September. We all got up early one morning to ride with the ‘badass on a bike’ – Hilary! With her special LA style of riding, I was taken back to West Hollywood and Cycle House. A great start to the day!
Lift: The Movement in Shoreditch opened over the summer. The Olympic-style gymnastic rings provided an upper body workout that develops strength, balance and control. A different yet very enjoyable class with a trainer who clearly knows his stuff. We couldn’t have done those rings without you!
BLOK ventured outside of London with their Manchester site opening back in September, but we kept it close to home and hunted down the first BLOK at the old tram depot in Clapton. The former industrial buildings have been turned into stunning workout spaces with atmospheric surroundings.
I was an early adopter of BXR in Marylebone, and September saw the opening of their first standalone studio, Sweat, in Canary Wharf above the soon-to-open Crossrail train station. If you love the Versaclimber and its total body workout, then this one is for you. You’ll find Sweat next to Barry’s, on the former Psycle site.
Also in Canary Wharf is Awakn, where we joined the Gladiator class taken by a former Strongwoman World Champion. This studio opened in October, and what a workout! We’ve also been back to do the Box & Lift class which was loved all round.
In the City of London, close to Bank station, The Foundry opened on the former Speedflex site in July. It’s become a firm favourite among the team, particularly the City Strongman Class (which can be enjoyed by all) and the Combine team-based class which brought out our competitive nature! We just keep going back for more.
You could say some of the team have become regular “Framers”. Frame opened their Angel studio in November and, across the brand, we found Reformer Pilates to be our favourite class.
Flykick on Euston Road opened in 2018 and we love the kickboxing concept that results in a tough but fun full body workout. In 2019, Flykick added a second studio to the site, so we returned to try out their new Strength class; it gets another thumbs up from us.
The Fore brand opened in a really cool studio on the exciting Kings Cross development over last summer (previously known as Equilibrium).
The class consisted of a unique mix of Skillmills, TRX and Rip Trainers where the emphasis is on speed, rotation and resistance. Group classes, Personal Trainers, therapies, café and co- working, I’d be happy to move in.
CIRQ opened on Fleet Street in the City of London and we went in September for the opening week to try out the classes. It has two studios, one focused on strength and one on cardio.
The H2 Club in Victoria isn’t technically new but the power meters on the bikes are. We went to the Stages Flight Class in December, where a mixture of profiles to music combined with video images was layered with data from the power meter in the left crank. I’ve downloaded the app ready for my next ride.
I was going to mention Another_Space but as we start 2020, Digme are rebranding them, consistent with their message that the sector needs consolidation. In July, while the Tour de France riders were racing into Paris, the ‘Digme Tour’ was finishing its three-week indoor cycling classes with a back-to-back-to-back class! Yes, three in a row at Digme’s studio in Fitzrovia. I was thrilled to be invited to join such elite riders on that occasion.
There’s a few still to try like BuddhaBox which opened in December, plus Rumble in Dalston, 1Rebel and Barrecore in Angel, Barry’s Bootcamp in Canary Wharf, Core Collective in St John’s Wood and Heartcore in Soho.
Then there’s F45, the fastest growing fitness franchise that just continues to add to its already impressive number of sites around the UK!
I did go to SoulCycle in Soho but haven’t yet made it to the new studio in Notting Hill. Talking of Notting Hill, there’s the new Psycle site to check out too.
Let’s not forget the new super-premium CrossFit in Putney and congratulations to WIT Fitness at St Pauls – funded for expansion in 2019. Ten Health & Fitness, winner of the Tatler Gym Award 2019, also received funding in 2019.
I’m sure we will see lots more active investment in 2020, so it looks like the team and I have another year of new experiences to come. Bring it On!