“Normally at this time of year, people are joining gyms but that hasn’t happened and our members are almost certainly going to miss out on that typical new year increase in activity.”
Matt Gordin, the chief executive of Boutique Fitness Studios, is undeterred by the idea that some people will stay away from gyms for good because they’ve discovered at-home workouts such as Peleton, which sells internet-connected stationary bicycles and treadmills, and says it has encountered “phenomenal” demand since it landed in Australia last year.
Mr Gordin plans to license dozens of new outlets under the Rumble, CycleBar and StretchLab brands after purchasing the master franchises from the US.
Cycle and stretch classes will be familiar to readers. But Rumble needs a little explanation: it’s a 45-minute, 10-round boxing workout that was created in New York in 2017 before spreading to Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Chicago.
Celebrities Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez are apparently fans of the workout, which is performed in a room fitted out with boxing bags hanging from the ceiling.
At a cost of up to $35 a class, attendees learn simple punching combinations that are interspersed with body-weight exercises and cardio moves.
“We see Australia is about five years behind the US and the future is definitely in boutique fitness,” Mr Gordin said.
“Consumers want a premium experience and that’s what we offer – well-trained instructors and high-end fitouts.
“After the lockdowns, people also want to get back to feeling like they’re part of a community.”
Rumble is due to open this year in 24 locations, including the Gold Coast, Melbourne CBD, Bondi in Sydney and also in New Zealand.
Mr Elvish said Australian fitness businesses appeared to have fared better than those overseas, even though they were scapegoated by health bureaucrats as “hot, sweaty, unclean environments” likely to spark mass infections.
“In the US, about 30 per cent of facilities closed permanently and in some European countries, it was 50 per cent,” he said.
“Here in Australia, it would be less than 1 per cent that folded because of COVID.”
He estimates that only about 5 per cent of memberships were canceled or allowed to lapse over the past two years, and believes the long-term outlook is good.
Adam Gilchrist, co-founder and chief executive of F45, the runaway Australian success that listed on the New York Stock Exchange in July, told an investor conference in the US last week that health restrictions in Canada and Australia were affecting the business but fewer than 15 franchises had folded because of the pandemic.
He did not say where the closures had occurred.
F45 has sold more than 3000 franchises in 65 countries.
“I think if you were to look into the future, you would say there is still maybe three more months in these challenged markets,” Mr Gilchrist told a conference held by ICR, a communications and advisory firm.
“But if you look at key markets for us in terms of growth, being the likes of Texas, Florida, we really are flourishing not just from a franchise sales perspective but also from a member growth perspective.
“We would argue we are the most profitable fitness franchises in the world.”