Studio Owners Identify Their Three Biggest Challenges as Rebuilding Memberships, Getting New Clients, Finding Instructors

The three biggest challenges that studio owners in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom face are rebuilding memberships, getting new clients and finding instructors, according to a survey by the Boutique Fitness Solutions (BFS), a private network of boutique businesses with the mission of educating, connecting and supporting members.

In addition to these challenges, studio owners say they face challenges related to back rent and landlord relationships as well as fatigue.

Details of the survey are included in the “2021 State of the Studio Market” report put out by BFS co-founders Julian Barnes and Ntiedo Etuk, who also share their findings in a 40-minute video. Using data gathered from BFS studios and clients, the report evaluates the current state of the boutique fitness industry and reveals new insights on industry trends and challenges.

Despite challenges, 65 percent of independent fitness studio owners predict solid growth for the next two years. To be successful in the future, many studio owners are aware they need to become more knowledgeable around technology. This belief has resulted in a pull back of mandatory software, such as booking, billing, communication and basic virtual offerings, according to the report. Instead, studio owners are re-applying other software programs to combat the challenges of rebuilding memberships, getting new clients and finding instructors. Studio owners are retreating to specific systems and being particular about the additional software systems they choose to subscribe to in order to get clients back in studios.

In response to membership challenges, studio owners are finding success through manual email blasts, individually calling and texting clients, and using automated win-back emails, according to the survey.  

Many of the studio respondents shared that they lack marketing expertise, which has hampered their ability to attract new members, but many are finding success by using targeted, results- and outcome-focused programs as well as refer-a-friend promotions and corporate memberships, according to the survey.

Between the surge of new fitness habits, hybrid fitness trends and studios reopening, studio owners are facing staffing shortages and compensation issues as instructors want to be paid more for less, according to the survey. Despite the demand for more pay, 67.3 percent of studio owners say they will pay the same as prior to COVID-19 while 28.5 percent plan to pay instructors more and 4.2 percent plan to pay them less.

To combat staffing challenges, studio owners are offering referral fees and training for aspiring instructors, and they are asking their team to recommend new talent. To encourage previous instructors to return sooner rather than later, studio owners are offering prime teaching slots to instructors on a first-come, first-served basis.

The BFS survey also identified three trends studios are experiencing: leveraging technology to automate operations, celebrities becoming the new face of fitness and the increase of collaboration among studios through community gym coalitions.

The BFS Studio Market Report included 71.1 percent independently owned studios, of which 79.3 percent owned more than three locations. These studios are located across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.