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London boutique fitness market coming of age, says Heartcore founder

By Jak Phillips    03 Feb 2015
Heartcore Fitness co-founder Brian Schuring expects 2015 to be a big year for boutique group fitness

The explosion of new boutique gym sites across London demonstrates how consumers are waking up to the possibilities of boutique group fitness, according to the co-founder of Heartcore Fitness.

Brian Schuring, whose chain of boutique studios spans seven sites across the capital, says the flurry of recent activity and investment in the market space suggests there is still plenty of room for growth. This year has already seen the arrival of 1Rebel and the scaling up of brands like barrecore and Barry’s Bootcamp, suggesting consumers are increasingly willing to pay a high premium in return for telling results.

Brian, who runs the business with celebrity personal trainer Jess Schuring, has also launched two new Heartcore studios in 2015 – in the City and Mayfair. He plans to launch two more by spring, and says the opportunities in the market mean there is potential for up to 15 Heartcore studios in London.

“Things are certainly hotting up at the moment and we’re expecting 2015 to be our busiest year ever,” Brian told Health Club Management.

“We’re seeing huge demand for Heartcore Barre at the moment – classes are up to 95 per cent occupancy – and that seems to be a trend that’s trickled through from the US.

“It’s been very interesting to watch well-funded, smart investors come into the boutique group fitness market and from our perspective, we’re in the place we want to be right now.”

To a large extent, the success of boutique group fitness in the UK has so far centred on building small communities of loyal consumers who are willing to pay a premium for challenging workouts in classes of 6-10 people. But as the boutique market scales up and consumer demand grows, will it prove possible to retain that intimate setting and personalised training?

“Not necessarily,” says Schuring. “Some of the boutique operators are now running classes of 50+ people, and in that environment, what you lose in personal attention, you gain in terms of phenomenal energy.

“You see this in New York with SoulCycle classes of 60 people which are absolutely buzzing. Boutique consumers are going to benefit from having the choice between the focus of intimate classes and the huge energy of larger sessions.”

On a final thought, Brian – whose background in private equity and hedge fund investment means he is on good terms with Fitness First owners Oaktree Capital – expects boutique classes to eventually spread into the London health clubs of the traditional chains.

“I’m not saying it will be this year, but as markets change there’s a huge opportunity for big gyms to provide better classes and charge more for them,” he adds.

“The big chains have great footprints and what we consider to be excess square footage, so perhaps that’s something they’ll look into at some point in the future. It’s certainly something we’d consider.”

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