Boutique gyms must “consider gamification and VR” to engage Generation Z members
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Boutique gyms must “consider gamification and VR” to engage Generation Z members

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We have to make people understand that it is an experience, not just a workout
– Andy Tee

Gyms and boutique studios will need to marry elements such as gamification and virtual reality into their offering in the future to keep Generation Z members engaged, according to Chloe Combi, a specialist on the demographic.

Speaking in the Talking Point article in the March 2019 issue of Health Club Management, Combi said that this generation – typically described as those who were born from the mid-1990s to early-mid 2000s – is often isolated in terms of their social activities, so “united activities will become more sought out as we move into the next decade”. There should be a greater emphasis on teamwork, team-building and working together, she said.

“Gyms and boutiques will also need to consider gamification, virtual reality and cutting edge technology, using elements of other favoured Gen Z activities (like gaming, YouTubing) into physical exercise, and making it futuristic, exciting, competitive on a global scale and fun.”

Combi’s suggestion came within the context of a wider discussion about whether the “boutique boom” has reached its peak, and a related topic, started in the February 2019 issue of HCM, considering whether the concept of boutique studios will work outside of the major cities.

Emma Barry of Catalyst cited a number of developments in the sector – increasing revenues, increasing numbers of studios, acquisitions and territorial expansions – to illustrate her response, saying: “These are not signs that boutique fitness is slowing down any time soon. Of course, the temperature will drop as the segment matures and the concepts reach beyond first-mover cities to secondary cities and suburbia.”

According to Catherine Jones of Orangetheory the boutique boom is still in its infancy, with plenty more fitness offerings still to come, and demand growing across the UK “as more professionals move away from London to places that are cheaper to live”, creating “hubs of busy professionals all over the UK”.

Opening new boutique studios outside of London carries with it factors that are both good and not so good. For example, the cost of doing business is lower outside of the capital, but there are also fewer high quality fitness instructors and PTs around, and the potential customer base, which is used to using big box gyms at low cost, will need educating on the boutique model.

“The main challenge you come up against when taking this concept outside of London is educating the consumer as to why they should pay the same for one class as they could pay for a month’s membership at a budget gym,” said V1BE co-founder Andy Tee. “We have to make them understand that it is an experience, not just a workout.”

Indeed, Justin Rogers, creative director at Ten Health & Fitness, which has eight locations in London and has no current plans to expand outside of the capital, sees no reason why boutiques would not work elsewhere, and believes it would be a great way for start-ups to begin.

“It could even be a better idea to open outside of London, given the saturation and the price of rents in the capital,” he said.

To read the full articles in HCM, please use the links below:

Outside London – will boutiques work outside major cities?

Peak boutique – is the boutique boom reaching the peak of its lifecycle?

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Gyms and boutique studios will need to marry elements such as gamification and virtual reality into their offering in the future to keep Generation Z members engaged, according to Chloe Combi, a specialist on the demographic.
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