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Entries in Tara Sampson (6)


Health Clubs Sharpen Competitive Edge by Opening Boutiques

Having been involved in the fitness industry for decades, Cliff Buchholz knows that the one constant is change.
 He’s equally aware that club operators who fail to recognize and embrace the newest trends will pay the price—most likely, sooner rather than later.

Buchholz managed tennis clubs and staged major tennis tournaments, successfully, in the ’60s and ’70s. When the popularity of racquet sports gave way to broader, emerging exercise trends, he moved on to operate full-service fitness facilities in Pittsburgh and Springfield, both in Illinois.

Capitalizing on New Fitness Trends

In 1979, he opened the first Miramont Lifestyle Fitness Club, in Fort Collins, CO, and today owns and operates four multipurpose properties in the area.

Remaining relevant has always been a big part of Buchholz’s business plan, as well as a major reason for his success, and so, last summer, he and his management team made a significant strategic move. Alert to the threat, as well as to the opportunity, posed by the dynamic studio/ boutique business model, they opened REVE by Miramont Fitness to capitalize on the explosive trend.

Rather than compete with small operations offering pricey, specialized workouts, they decided to join the party.

“The customer is asking for something different—not just here in Fort Collins, but throughout the country,” he says. “The concept of smaller studio classes is becoming more and more popular, and we’d be foolish to ignore it.”

Susan Cooper, the owner, president, and COO of BB Fitness Studios, in Austin, Texas, understands, agrees, and, like Buchholz, is a conceptual convert. “In January, we changed our name, and completely rebranded ourselves as a collection of studios with small, intimate exercise classes and lots of hands-on instruction,” says Cooper, a former member of IHRSA’s board of directors.

“In other words, we’re giving our participants an exclusive, intimate experience—exactly what they want.”

And, in doing so, they’re not alone. Cooper and Buchholz are just two of a growing number of IHRSA members who’ve opted to open studios inside, adjacent to, or near their facilities.

Boutique Studios Explained

In recent years, studios have been celebrated for offering intense, high-energy, and, importantly, personalized sessions in a wide variety of exercise categories—among them, boxing, CrossFit, cycling, yoga, Pilates, and personal and functional training.

If it seems that there’s now a boutique studio on nearly every street corner or in every shopping mall—well, that’s about right. According to IHRSA’s Comprehensive Guide to the Boutique Studio Phenomenon, a recently released free e-book, studios already constitute 42% of the U.S. market in terms of number of units—that’s double what it was just two years ago.

This comprehensive IHRSA report, which provides insights into the purchasing behavior of boutique habitués, concludes there are three psychological rea- sons why studios, also called “micro-gyms,” are hot right now. They’re social, they’re fun, and they’re trendy—all of which appeal strongly to 20-to-30-year- olds, aka millennials.

The report also notes that they’re convinced that studios can help them achieve the results they seek—quickly.

“Millennials have more buying power than previous generations, and place a high value on health and fit- ness,” Tara Sampson, the general manager of the VIDA Fitness & Aura Spa, in Washington, D.C., notes in the IHRSA report.

Continue reading "Surfing the Studio Surge" in the September issue of CBI.


From WiFi to Community: What Millennials Want From Their Health Club

What’s next on the horizon for the health and fitness industry?
A revolution sparked by millennials, suggests Stephen Tharrett, the cofounder and principal of ClubIntel, an industry consultancy based in Highland Village, TX.

“Millennials—those individuals who were born between 1980 and 2000—are poised to dramatically change the industry, as they’re introducing a whole new purchasing mindset,” he says in the September issue of Club Business International. “Club operators are well advised to take note.”


The new issue of the IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, produced by IHRSA and ClubIntel, supports Tharrett’s assertion. This annual best-selling research publication provides detailed information on participation trends among both health club member and nonmember consumers at U.S. fitness facilities.

The report identifies numerous new opportunities for club operators, but the one that shines brightest—because of the large size of the group and the small size of the current penetration rate—is the one offered by millennials.

Clearly, this group represents a promising, largely untapped market for the industry, prompting operators, equipment suppliers, and marketers to pose the question: “Who, exactly, are the millennials, and what do they want?”

Free WiFi and Intelligent Exercise Equipment

“Technology,” is the first word out of Dan Schawbel’s mouth when he’s asked what attracts millennials to a club. Schawbel is the founder and managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Boston-based research firm, and a New York Times best-selling author.

“They want free WiFi wherever they are. They’re the most connected generation in history,” he says. “So clubs should focus on having modern equipment, a strong online network, and a solid social media presence.”

The affinity these individuals have for technology is hardly surprising, since they were born and grew up with it. The Internet, smartphones, and social media have been an integral part of their daily lives.

Continue reading "What Millennials Want from Their Health Club."

Click to read more ...


Fitness Industry Leaders Tackle the ‘Big’ Questions

Most owners and operators focus, by necessity, on the day-to-day business of running their clubs. It’s hard to find time to think about, or reflect upon, what the future might hold. All too often, they’re working in their business—rather than on their business.

To give you a sense of what’s out there—of promising possibilities you may not have heard about or yet explored—CBI spoke with a select group of club professionals and industry experts, and asked them what you should be thinking about. Our sources, all first-time presenters at IHRSA’s recent 35th Annual International Convention & Trade Show, in Orlando, FL, offer some brand-new ideas and fresh takes on old ones.

Growth Opportunities

David Long is the cofounder and CEO of Orangetheory Fitness, a fitness franchise based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and he clearly knows something about rapid
growth in competitive times. Since it was
founded six years ago, Orangetheory has
shot to more than 300 units in some 32
states, and achieved a three-year growth
rate of 1,147%. At IHRSA 2016, Long
spoke on “Building Multi-Million Dollar Fitness Businesses”—which seems appropriate. In 2014, Orangetheory booked $10.4 million in revenues.

“In general terms, I can see several trends that offer great opportunities for growth,” Long said. “There’s a rapidly growing demand for special group fitness, such as yoga, Pilates, group cycling, and, of course, Orangetheory. Heart-rate training and wearables are also continuing to emerge at a quick clip. There’s now a significant demographic population that wants objective data on their fitness regimen, and gravitates toward results-based programming. Having said that, there’s still a huge marketplace
for traditional fitness offerings, but consumers continue to demand a higher service
 level and ease-of-use with technology—something that every operator needs to be aware of.

“Because consumers, in general, are focusing more, and spending more, on health and wellness, the industry continues to grow,” he said. “It’s a great time for our industry.”

Increased Competition

Tara Sampson is the director of marketing at VIDA Fitness & Aura Spa, in Washington, D.C. At IHRSA 2016, she spoke on “Stop Competing and Capitalize: Maximize Revenues by Leveraging the Growth of Studios.” Sampson sees great promise in the Millennial generation, and, while many club operators regard the rapid proliferation of studios with concern, she suggests that they also pose fresh opportunities.

“We should keep our eye on the Millennials, and dial into their buying behavior,” she said. “They’re waiting
longer to get married and have children, which leaves them with more buying
 power than any preceding generation. When you couple that with the fact that they’re also very health-conscious—well, we should be paying real attention to them. They’re willing to pay more to be part of a community with specialized service, and they’re the driving force behind the rapid growth of studios.”

Studios are “the most relevant and fastest-growing trend in our industry, and,” Sampson cautioned, “they’re not going away.” She recommends that operators spotlight the wide variety of specialized services they already offer, and begin thinking of studios as an extra option for their members.

Continue reading “The Big Questions” in the June issue of CBI.


How Health Clubs Can Appeal to Big Fitness Spenders

The media has been buzzing about the large amounts of money today’s consumers are willing to spend on fitness, but this trend isn’t exactly news to the health club industry. 

In fact, IHRSA reported on this shift in the 2015 Health Club Consumer Report, which found that, on average, consumers spent approximately .8% of their income on membership at clubs and studios, overall—but members of studios spent as much as 1.9% of their income.

To get to the root of this trend, we spoke to two experts (and IHRSA 2016 speakers) about consumer purchasing behavior and how health clubs can best appeal to members who are willing to spend big on fitness. 

Consumer Purchasing Behavior and “Affordable Luxury” 

The millennial generation—those born from the early 1980s to early 2000s—are thought to be the driving force behind the increase in fitness spending, as well as the rise of boutique studios. Millennials have more buying power than previous generations and place a high value on health and fitness, says Tara Sampson, general manager for VIDA Fitness & Aura Spa in Washington D.C. 

“There is also some behavioral economics woven in there as well, where spending $500 a month in studio classes is much more easily justified than spending $500 on a purse or a pair of expensive shoes,” she says. “Even though they come away from these classes with nothing concrete to show for their investment, the purse strings are much looser when they are spending on their health.”    

This behavior is sometimes called “affordable luxury,” or the purchase of products and experiences that, while expensive, align with the customer’s lifestyle values, says Steve Tharrett, co-founder of ClubIntel, a consumer insights and operational consulting firm based in Dallas, TX. When it comes to spending on fitness, today’s consumers are willing to pay more for experiences that align with their preferences. 

“It is an example of where value is not equated with the price, but with the experience, particularly the intangible aspect such as being part of a tribe, engaged in a highly specialized and guided experience, and much more,” Tharrett says. “These affordable luxury expenditures speak to the consumers hankering for novelty, adventure, personalization, and a conscious ability to align with their lifestyle and life stage.” 

Continue reading "How Health Clubs Can Appeal to Big Fitness Spenders."

Click to read more ...


IHRSA 2016 Session Spotlight: Maximize Revenues by Leveraging the Growth of Studios

As boutique fitness studios continue to experience rapid growth, it’s natural for health club owners to view these companies as competition. But, with a shift in perspective, traditional health clubs can gain insights from boutique studios and use them to their advantage.

“I don’t like to think of studios as a threat—because larger facilities will always be able to offer many things they can’t—but more of a leading indicator that should shape the way we talk to prospective members, market our services, and shape our sales process,” says Tara Sampson, general manager of VIDA Fitness in Washington D.C. “If the growth of studios tells us that our consumers are looking for highly specialized formats with a strong sense of community between members, most gyms already offer this for a fraction of what they are paying to their respective studios.”

To better appeal to this segment of consumers, health clubs should change the way they present and advertise their services. Instead of highlighting features such as showers, treadmills, and a wide-variety of group classes, health clubs should emphasize the specialized experience they can create for members.

Sampson will dig down into strategies to do just that in her IHRSA 2016 session, “Stop Competing and Capitalize: Maximize Revenues by Leveraging the Growth of Studios,” which will take place in Orlando on Tuesday, March 22.

“One important thing to realize is that a studio member is not a lost member to your facility—in fact you should shift your perspective to see these as prequalified buyers,” she says. “IHRSA’s annual report last year stated that while studio memberships were growing at a rapid rate, a significant number of studio members held their more traditional gym membership as well.”

Instead of competing with studios, Sampson recommends health clubs begin positioning themselves as a high quality, lower cost alternative that will help enhance their studio performance. Health clubs can appeal to studio members by offering classes such as:

  • “Cross Training for Spin”
  • “Variety to Combat Plateaus”
  • “Flexible Options When Your Schedule Doesn’t Let You Make it to Class”

“If a consumer wants a highly specialized experience, the perception is that the large facility can’t compete—so don’t—use your resources to capture the growing number of studio members looking to supplement their workouts,” she says. 

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Free Webinar: IHRSA 2016 Convention Preview

If you’re looking to maximize revenues, grow personal training, or improve your leadership skills, register for IHRSA’s free webinar on Thursday, January 14 at 2 p.m. EST.

The 90-minute presentation will feature three expert IHRSA 2016 speakers who will provide previews of their conference sessions as well as actionable takeaways for the webinar audience. The featured sessions include:

Visionary Leadership: Driving Organizational Strength

presented by Luke Carlson

CEO of Discover Strength 


Stop Competing and Capitalize: Maximize Revenues by Leveraging the Growth of Studios

presented by Tara Sampson

General Manager of VIDA Fitness


Strength to Sell: Proven Strategies to Sell Personal Training

presented by Steve Satin

President of Satin Wellness 


“My webinar presentation is going to be an introduction to understanding the vision component of the health club business,” Carlson says. “Listeners will come to understand if the vision component of their club strong and what makes it strong. In every business your people need to be strong, your processes need to be strong, how you deal with processes need to be strong, and—most importantly—the vision component needs to be strong as well.” 

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