Ray Algar is interviewed by MFitness Russia

Ray Algar starts a presentation to European health and fitness club owners at an event hosted at Club La Santa in Lanzarote Ray Algar discussing change in the European health and fitness industry

 

At the end of June 2017, I shall be travelling to Kazakhstan and Russia to give talks as part of this year’s MFORUM fitness industry event. MFORUM brings together senior members of the fitness industry and involves four international speakers who each deliver a 90-minute talk.

What follows is a short interview leading up to the event on June 28th 2017.

Interview with Ray Algar, managing director, of UK-based Oxygen Consulting. Ray will be one of our international speakers at this year’s MForum. He works as a Business Analyst to the global health and fitness industry and is the author of nine international fitness industry reports. One of his recent reports is a strategic investigation into the emergence of boutique fitness.

Introduction

Recently a new ‘boutique’ style of fitness has been growing in popularity with international consumers. These fitness brands are highly specialised studios normally focusing on a single exercise discipline. They do not sell memberships and instead focus on selling a 45-minute class experience. One class can cost up to $40 (USD).

During Ray’s forthcoming MForum talk (The emergence of boutique fitness. How do these new specialist brands compete and how should your business respond?), he will discuss why these brands are growing in popularity (using international case studies) and explore how they are able to command high prices. He will also be discussing what clubs that offer a more general experience can learn from these specialist brands. His talk will challenge you to think about how the long-term role of your business in a fast-changing fitness industry.

We asked Ray some questions about the growth of boutique fitness and his forthcoming talk at MForum:

MFitness: How are you connected to the health and fitness industry?

Ray Algar: I have worked as a Business Analyst to the global health and fitness industry for fifteen years and before that, I held senior management positions with several fitness club businesses.

MFitness: How would you describe what you do?

Ray Algar: Through my research, I try and help people gain a deep understanding of how the fitness industry is evolving. Through this understanding, it can then help business stakeholders (managers, investors, employees) to define a clear member proposition. This helps them to foster meaningful relationships with their members, which is critical as competition increases.

MFitness: At MForum you will be talking about the growth of boutique fitness. Can you explain this concept?

Ray Algar: Boutique fitness is known by many names across the world, ranging from, ‘studios’, ‘micro gyms’ to ‘boutiques’ to ‘stores’, but regardless of the terminology I believe they possess the following core characteristics:

  • Small and intimate size.
  • Narrow programme or activity offering.
  • Always expert and guided instruction.
  • A nurturing and supportive environment.
  • Group powered.
  • Participants have a shared common interest.
  • There is a compelling mission driving the business that the founders are passionate about.

MFitness: When was the first time you heard about boutique fitness?

Ray Algar: I published my Boutique Studio Report in 2015 so I began researching this trend in 2014.

MFitness: What is an international example of a successful boutique fitness brand?

Ray Algar: Two brands that fit my earlier definition are CrossFit and SoulCycle. I am often surprised how long new fitness concepts can grow before the industry begins to notice and pay attention to them. SoulCycle is now more than 10 years old and very successful. However, when I give talks and ask an audience if they know this brand, less than 50 per cent will be aware of it.

MFitness: In your opinion, is Boutique Fitness a trendy short-term concept or a long-lasting trend?

Ray Algar: I remember being asked if low-cost gyms were a short-term concept because some people believed they would not survive. Now we have low-cost gym brands in the United States and Europe that are more than 20 years old. I think in business it is always best to keep an open mind. So some people will ask: how long will the boutique brands be around while others will ask: what can we learn from them that help my business to become better?

MFitness: Why do you think consumers are becoming interested in boutique fitness studios?

Ray Algar: Across the world, I believe that consumers are becoming more discerning. I believe part of the attraction of these new studios is that they tap into people’s desire for social acceptance (a sense of inclusion), social contact (a feeling of belonging) and status (social standing). Studios are deliberately designed as smaller communities and so possess an inherent cohesiveness that larger clubs may struggle to create. The sense of inclusion also arises from the fact that people for the next hour will be engaging in a common experience and so a sense of belonging and community is fostered. So I believe studios attract people seeking a more remarkable experience – fun, time-efficient, effective activity delivered with passion.