“Boutique fitness in Australia is about five years behind where it is in the U.S.,” said Matt Gordin, but the master franchisee of CycleBar, StretchLab and Rumble noted the country is primed to catch up.
“I’d say Australia would be right up there per capita with spending on memberships and gyms” with any market in the world, Gordin continued, and consumers are “willing to pay for a premium experience.” Aussies spend an average of $95 per month on gym memberships, reported Australian consumer research group Canstar Blue, though in a survey last year just 15 percent said they went to the gym for group fitness classes. With his introduction of three concepts from Irvine, California-based franchisor Xponential Fitness, Gordin wants to change that.
Gordin, along with his wife, Candice, and father, Bill, formed Boutique Fitness Studios in Perth and signed a master deal to develop CycleBar in Australia in early 2020, later adding StretchLab and Rumble. While the COVID-19 pandemic affected studio development, four CycleBars are open, along with three StretchLabs, and the company signed agreements last year for 41 locations across the brands.
“Our challenge this year is to get the ones we’ve sold open,” said Gordin, as the group also works to introduce all three concepts to New Zealand after signing an additional master franchise agreement.
While group fitness franchises such as F45 Training, FitStop and Orangetheory have a presence in the country, there’s plenty of white space for a cycling concept, said Gordin, part of why he first chose CycleBar. It was also a natural starting point for someone whose background includes expanding Bike Force, the Australian retail franchise founded by his father, and developing online marketplace Bike Exchange in the United States.
It was while living in California that Gordin joined a CycleBar “and fell in love with the brand,” he said. Upon moving back to Australia, he and Candice thought about creating their own concept, but after more research it “became pretty clear we should do it with them rather than against them.”
Anyone can copy a brand, he continued, but where CycleBar stands out is with the instructor training of its energetic CycleStars, who help give members that aforementioned premium experience that’s further amplified by a concert-like environment of lights and music. Other touches, such as cold towels handed out at the end of each ride, and cycling shoe rental included in the membership price, are attractive to members, he said.
StretchLab, which provides customized assisted-stretch services, made sense as a second brand for Gordin and Boutique Fitness Studios because it’s not a competitor in the fitness space “but rather it’s complementary,” he said. Plus, “it’s a little bit lower cost to enter than CycleBar,” which helps on the franchise development side as the company looks to appeal to franchisees.
Boxing concept Rumble, the most recent addition to Gordin’s portfolio, “is probably the coolest of the lot,” he said. “Nothing really competes against it,” and while no locations are open yet in Australia, 24 were sold in about four months. Among those franchisees are former F45 studio owners Matt and Chris Stafford—known in Australia as the DJ and entertainment duo Stafford Brothers—who signed on for two locations and are also promoting Rumble.
“They’re connected to the top Instagram influencers,” noted Gordin.
Boutique Fitness Studios is also tapping into the expertise of another well-known Australian entrepreneur in Jacinta McDonell. The co-founder of Anytime Fitness Australia, McDonell brought the 24-hour gym concept to the country and built the system to 425 studios before exiting in 2017. She joined the board of Boutique Fitness Studios in January and is also an investor in the group.
“The demand for wellness and fitness has never been higher,” said McDonell as she added that’s true both among consumers and prospective franchisees. A “massive boom in property prices” has led to a financial windfall for many homeowners who are now looking for new investments, she continued, and franchising is an attractive and established model in the country.
In her role, McDonell said she’ll help Boutique Fitness Studios create a “successful, sustainable model for our franchisees” by enhancing support, looking for efficiencies in gym buildouts and focusing on key performance metrics at the unit level.
Xponential Fitness has 2,100-plus studios open across its 10 brands, with Club Pilates and Pure Barre boasting the largest footprints at 690 and 610 units, respectively. Just 184 of Xponential’s locations are outside the U.S., but more development is on the horizon.
The company last year announced a master franchise deal in Spain, and it also has franchisees developing locations in countries including Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
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