Entrepreneurs Look to the Growing World of Niche Gyms


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In the fitness industry, niche gyms – that is, small-scale gyms with a particular focus or target clientele – are rapidly increasing their share of the market. That’s great news for health fanatics, but even better for potential small business owners who are passionate about fitness and want a more hands-on business opportunity than a standard big-box gym.

Niche gyms are growing in popularity for several reasons. These facilities attract very specific kinds of customers – for example, Get In Shape For Women, a new fitness center that recently opened its first Illinois location in La Grange and has plans to open a total of 10 franchise locations throughout the Chicago area over the next 3-5 years. It offers small-group personal training for women primarily in the 40- to 65-year-old range.

People flock to smaller gyms because they seek individualized attention and custom programming, which is something you can’t find at many larger fitness centers. In addition, the environment at niche gyms is more inclusive, perfect for people who feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable working out in a larger space. Plus, at gyms like Get In Shape For Women, trainers are always available, meaning programs are individually tailored and gym-goers always have someone holding them accountable for their progress.

The health and fitness industry is growing at a remarkable rate in spite of the tumultuous economy. According to a 2011 IBISWorld study, revenue for the health and fitness industry is expected to rise 2.6 percent each year to annual earnings of $28.2 billion by 2016. Combine those numbers with growing U.S. concerns about obesity and associated health issues and there has never been a better time to own a fitness facility.

This is especially true of niche gyms, which are a rapidly growing segment of the market. Lower overhead is also appealing to entrepreneurs looking at a niche fitness concept. The small gym atmosphere requires less staff and a smaller space, which helps small business owners break even more quickly and start making a profit. In addition, becoming part of a franchise is an increasingly popular alternative to independent business ownership, because it offers the best of both worlds: the power to run your own business and the training and support network of an established national company.

As the economy improves and the industry continues its growth surge, niche gyms are expanding rapidly throughout the Chicago market and beyond and consumers are seeking them out just as quickly.

Lou DeFrancisco is the president of La Grange’s Get In Shape For Women.

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