Skift Take

The fitness industry is thriving — especially high-end boutique studios. But those will likely be the hardest hit if a recession strikes. If and when that happens, you can expect luxury fitness studios to shutter.

The Skift Wellness newsletter is our  weekly dispatch focused on what’s happening in wellness from a global business standpoint. Skift Wellness lives where wellness meets commerce, mindfulness meets technology, the yoga studio meets the boardroom, and health meets business.

After seeing a few recent headlines, you might think the high-end fitness industry is showing early signs of struggle. After all, Flywheel Sports recently announced that it’s shutting down more than a quarter of its cycling locations, and SoulCycle and Equinox are facing boycotts after news broke that owner Stephen Ross hosted a fundraiser for President Donald Trump.

But new data research shows that a record number of people are heading to sweat it out in gyms and studios. Profits are up 8 percent compared to last year, now at over $32 billion, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. The sector with the strongest growth? Boutique fitness.

While this may be good news to Barry’s Bootcamp, SoulCycle, and the like, it does come with a caveat: Pricey boutique classes will likely be one of the first luxuries to go when an eventual recession hits. While $34 per class may already seem like a stretch for many now, analysts predict it will be even more out of reach when budgets tighten.

Goop, meanwhile, is hoping it can capitalize on people paying a premium for fitness. The Gwyneth Paltrow-owned company is hosting a fitness-specific two-day event in Austin, Texas, this October. The reason for making it a stand-alone event rather than integrating it into its larger In Goop Health summit: “Our Body Studio there is one of the most engaged parts of the event, so we thought this was a way to blow that out,” said Goop’s wellness director Kiki Koroshetz.

Coinciding with the rise of fitness, athleisure brands are jockeying for category domination. That includes Athleta, which has made major moves to pick up professional athletes — like former Nike ambassador Allyson Felix — as well as revamping its sizing so that it’s now more inclusive. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fox News host Tomi Lahren recently debuted an athleisure line that comes outfitted with gun holsters. You heard that right.

We’ll be watching to see what happens in the fitness space as it parallels the U.S. economy. But for now, investors are pouring in money — even if some of the brands may be questionable.

For feedback or news tips, reach out via email at [email protected] or tweet me @lesliebarrie.

— Leslie Barrie, Wellness Editor


Exercise Is Still Big Business, But a Recession Could Mean Disruption: Here’s a rosy stat for the fitness industry: A record 71.5 million consumers used about 40,000 for-profit health clubs in 2018. Even though pricey boutique fitness studios like Barry’s Bootcamp and Orange Theory grew at the fastest pace, the uptick comes with caution. If a recession does indeed strike, premium classes would likely be the first budget line item to go. Read more here.

Goop Launches a New Fitness Event Series: After finding success with its In Goop Health events, the oft-criticized company is launching a new, strictly fitness summit this October in Austin, Texas, called Goop League. The two-day event costs a steep $150 per day, though this is much lower than the shockingly high £1,100 for its recent In Goop Health event in London. Despite controversies around the brand’s connection to pseudo-science, fans likely will still flock. Read more here.


Athleta Looks to Secure the Top Spot in Athleisure: This is how you sprint past the competition. Not only did Athleta bring on professional runner Allyson Felix — who wrote a New York Times op-ed when Nike wanted to pay her 70 percent less after the birth of her daughter — but it’s also updating its extended sizes for a better fit. Company insiders predict it will reach $1 billion in sales in a few years, to Nike and Lululemon’s chagrin. Read more here.

Food & Drink

Target Gets In on the Better-for-You Food Craze: You might not think of Target when you hear the words “avocado toast” and “beet hummus,” but the big-box retailer is hoping to change that with its new grocery line Good & Gather. The wellness-themed private label is set to launch this September with 650 products, and the CEO is banking on it becoming a multibillion-dollar brand. It seems like a stretch. But then again, millennials do love Target and wellness. Read more here.

Hard Seltzer Isn’t Going Anywhere: Hard seltzer is this summer’s “it” drink, but the bubbly and buzzy alcoholic beverage seems to have staying power. The truth is in the numbers. Sales jumped 200 percent last year, and hard seltzer is expected to grow from being a $550 million business — which is what it’s valued at the moment — to a $2.5 billion one by 2021. Because plain seltzer is so popular, it only makes sense that the alcoholic variety would be too. Read more here.

Beauty & Spa

Walmart is the Latest Big-Box Retailer to Bet on Clean Beauty: Clean beauty doesn’t come cheap, unless you get your products at Walmart. The mega-retailer just launched a line called Earth to Skin aimed at wellness-oriented customers. The products come stacked with all of the buzzy ingredients clean beauty fans fork over major funds for, like Manuka honey, royal jelly, and chamomile tea. Whether customers actually want to shop at Walmart for clean beauty products is a different story. Read more here.

Skift Wellness Editor Leslie Barrie [[email protected]] curates the Skift Wellness newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Thursday.

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Tags: Skift Wellness, wellness

Photo credit: Women are shown doing yoga poses. Health club industry profits are up 8 percent compared to last year, with the boutique fitness sector showing the strongest growth. @mmm_mark / Unsplash

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