Workouts at London's boutique studios

Following the release of LeisureDB’s London Boutique Studio Report the team have visited a number of boutique fitness studios across the city.

In the past few months we’ve tried classes at Ministry of Sound Fitness, Equilibrium, The Yard at Third Space, Ten Health & Fitness, 1Rebel, Digme and many more. Check out @thefitness4 on Instagram for more of the team’s fitness adventures.

Equilibrium near King’s Cross opened mid February 2019 and it’s one of the team’s new favourite studios. The elegantly designed workout space and incredible training staff has drawn the team back time and time again. The classes are challenging and incorporate three pieces of equipment: TRX, TRX RIP TRAINER and Technogym SKILLMILL.

Boutique fitness attracts a wide range of investment

London’s growth in both supply and demand for boutique studios has become the fastest growing fitness segment. By the end of October 2018, London had 278 boutique sites with over 400 studios offering 15,806 classes each week. The popularity of this segment, which sets itself apart by offering captivating experiences providing a memorable visit, is detailed in the new benchmark report 2018 London Boutique Studio Report.

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The boutique studio trend should come as no surprise as Barry’s, for example, started in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, 20 years ago and other concepts like ‘spinning’ are even more mature. Boutique concepts are not new; London is awash with cool, hip hotels, bars selling craft beer from microbreweries, wine bars specialising in boutique wineries and there’s no end to the number of baristas adding value to the simple coffee bean. People are prepared to pay a premium to have a story to tell; an experience, to understand the provenance and to be part of a tribe.

Boutique studios are cashing in on this movement and the 2018 Report explores the growth since 2011. Details include studio type, number, classes, location, capacity, extra facilities and live links to the social media channels. A breakdown and history of the main boutique styles (HIIT, Mind & Body and CrossFit) are provided along with charts showing the number of weekly classes across all sites.

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This is the most fitness-tainment moment London has known in our time and it’s a safe bet to say the research team at LeisureDB are not only the fittest but most well informed on what makes a great experience, after taking classes at every main brand.

This movement couldn’t happen without investment, imagination and some clever mash-up of athletic-wear, fashion, music, some inventive collaborations and design. In London, the investment and co-branding has been on a more British scale with hype and queues to get into classes more muted than NYC and LA. Crowd Funding has helped brands like 1Rebel, BLOK, Core Collective and Boom Cycle, contributing around £10 million towards growth. Investment firms like Codex Capital (1Rebel), Piper (Frame), Encore Capital (Another Space) and Pembroke VCT (Boom Cycle) are some of the early investors with around £20 million committed so far. Private investment from former and current professional boxers and fighters, local and international franchise operations plus industry specialists are fuelling the growth.

After the investment comes the imagination, design and experience which people are prepared to pay for. BXR, a fitness site with boutique studios launched in January 2017, is a passion project for the undefeated boxer Anthony Joshua. It has been experimenting with ‘drop-culture’ to create demand and urgency, a strategy pioneered by streetwear brands like Supreme and Palace. So, drop in to see the next Joshua fight (it was a great evening), to the Selfridges Residency (a pop-up first) and Victoria Secret (shhh, it’s a secret).

BXR, like top end fashion brands, have developed a diffusion line with three studios on a pay-as-you-go basis called Sweat. BLOK is where fitness meets art in seductive spaces. Celebrity endorsements and photoshoots provide global exposure for their cool brand and studios. The legendary Ministry of Sound nightclub and multimedia entertainment business opened London’s first studio fitness nightclub. Located in the club’s previous back-of-house vault, it takes the club-style sound system plus lighting and pairs it with HIIT classes. Digme (named after a beach in Hawaii) opened in London thanks to Geoff and Caoimhe. Number one in the classes league table is Frame, run by Pip and Joan, who are also busy designing their own workout gear, a concept called ‘MumHood’ and an Academy (no wonder they need the occasional Negroni)! Rize, formerly Movers and Shapers, is growing out in the community with three sites. Ten, founded by Joanne, has grown to eight sites with a more intense version of Dynamic Pilates. F45, where no workout is ever the same, has over 20 studios in London with its many devotees. Another Space has three types of classes and doing a combination of all three is the norm now. There are thirty main brands, with two or more sites, featured in the report with unique benchmarking facts and figures on each.

The scale of investment and collaborations in the USA speaks volumes for the ‘can-do’ positive attitude that flows from the west coast. Venture capitalists, private equity firms, family offices, real estate firms, hotels have all developed an appetite for boutiques and seen how new concepts can add value to their existing investments.

Luxury brands are linking with street power brands and collaborations are going mainstream. Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), who have over 60 prestigious brands, partnered with Catterton, a private equity firm, in 2016. The re-branded L Catterton is one of the largest, diversified consumer-dedicated private equity firms in the world. Three of L Catterton portfolio of boutique companies are named in The World’s Most Innovative Companies 2018 by Fast Company.

Included in the Wellness listing at number 1 is Peloton, for bringing the boutique fitness experience into the home. Number 7 is Pure Barre for stretching the appeal of ballet-based exercise and number 8, Equinox, for breaking further into the luxury wellness industry with its new hotel concept. The Equinox owned SoulCycle is at number 6. L Catterton also have investments in CorePower Yoga, the UK athleisure brand Sweaty Betty and for the cyclists reading this, Pinarello.

TPG Growth is another red-hot investor in this sector and Mark Grabowski joined in 2016 after leaving L Catterton, where he worked on the Peloton and Pure Barre deals. TPG Capital, the main investment firm, owns a stake in USA fitness gym operator Life Time Fitness which it took private in 2015 with Leonard Green & Partners from LA, in a $2.8bn leveraged buyout. Leonard Green & Partners purchased the UK’s largest low-cost brand Pure Gym, in 2017. Grabowski has now spun out of TPG, raised his own fund and partnered with Anthony Geisler to buy Xponential with the idea of curating various boutique fitness concepts under one umbrella. The holding company currently has Club Pilates, Stretch Lab, Cyclebar, Row House, AKT, Yoga Six and in 2017 had almost $150 million in revenue. Cyclebar will be the first brand to open next to the new Embassy of the United States in London’s wider Battersea development this year, while master franchises, will be appointed to expand all brands throughout Europe.

Hotels and real estate companies have been expanding the boutique concept to include fitness. Hilton Hotels, a legendary name in the hospitality industry, is listed number 3 in the Fast Company Wellness listing for building hotel rooms that double as gyms with its Five Feet to Fitness initiative. Hilton have also installed 6 Les Mills ‘The Trip’ virtual studios in the UK. Hyatt Hotels acquired Exhale, a 15-year-old boutique spa concept with 25 locations, in 2017 to add to the Miraval, a provider of wellness experiences, to deliver wellness to guests. Marriott International own the five W Hotels in NYC and have partnered with Swerve Fitness locations at Midtown and Flatiron. Guests get a Swerve swag bag and unlimited rides during the stay. At Swerve you ride in ‘teams’ (Red, Green and Blue) for 45 minutes of rhythm rides bringing indoor cycling and team competition.

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Another NYC hotelier, Michael Achenbaum, who’s behind the sleek Gansevoort Hotels, opened the Curtain Hotel and members club in Shoreditch, London, with local developer SUSD, May 2017. In the members club soundproofed live music studio, Boom Cycle (featured in the Report) pop-up opened for members. The pop-up has moved on but as Achenbaum says, “boutique, hotels and fitness, are redefining creativity”.

The Related Companies first Equinox-branded hotel with 60,000 square foot gym and spa will join Related Companies boutique brands like SoulCycle and Rumble in NYC Manhattan’s West Side in a new $25 billion Hudson Yards development, a new model for urban renewal. An interesting aside, Thomas Heatherwick, one of London’s most original thinkers, responsible for the new Routemaster buses in London, the Rolling Bridge at Paddington Basin and the London Olympics 2012 Cauldron, is creating his monumental $200 million artwork ‘Vessel,’ a honeycomb like staircase, to be the focal point for Hudson Yards.

This first comprehensive report on the growth of Boutique Studios in London provides unique insight, with benchmarking, into the fastest growing fitness segment. Copies of the report can be purchased and downloaded here.

Article written by:

David Minton, Founder & Director of Leisure DB

January 2019


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The 2018 London Boutique Studio Report shows that the London boutique studio market is rapidly expanding. There are 278 boutique studios across the city: 114 HIIT studios, 111 Mind & Body studios and 53 CrossFit studios. They offer over 15k classes each week and at any one time, 9.6k people could be taking part in a class.

The 2018 report highlights that the number of boutique studios has grown by 281% over the last 5 years. 2018 has already seen over 60 new boutique studios open in London (up until 31st October), the highest number yet. This compares to a total of 46 in 2017.

F45 Training, with 21 London studios, is the leading boutique operator (by number of sites). They are the first brand to exceed 20 London locations, after adding 16 new studios in 2018. 

Commenting on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “The boutique studio trend should come as no surprise; fitness is simply playing catch up to other industries. Retail, hotels, food and drink have been establishing small, hip boutique options for some time. People are prepared to pay a premium to have more of an experience and be part of a tribe. Boutique fitness studios are a part of this movement and are cashing in, particularly in London”.

Summary of Key Facts

  • The number of boutique studios in London is 278.

  • There are 114 HIIT studios, 111 Mind & Body studios and 53 CrossFit studios.

  • 61 studios opened between the period 1st January to 31st October 2018, up from 46 in 2017.

  • There are 15,806 boutique classes on offer across London each week.

  • The total boutique studio capacity across the 278 sites in London is 9,629 people (at any one time).



The London Boutique Studio Report is compiled from the most comprehensive review of the London boutique industry, involving individual contact with all sites and the brands featured. The audit was conducted as of 31st October 2018. The audit and resulting figures are compiled by independent leisure market analysts, LeisureDB, who have been monitoring the performance of the fitness industry for over 30 years. Further details of the report can be found here 2018 London Boutique Studio Report.

Further Information:


LeisureDB (formerly The Leisure Database Company) is a leading independent database specialist who provides key market intelligence and analysis across the industry. Established over 30 years ago, the company works with a wide range of fitness operators, providing member profiling reports, new site analysis, latent demand estimates, statistics and data licenses.

Tel: 020 3735 8491

Sweat by BXR

By Chay Westall

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the LeisureDB team (plus friends of the company) headed to Anthony Joshua’s BXR gym in Marylebone to experience the new cardio class, Sweat. Utilising cutting-edge technology, this 45-minute VersaClimber session offered us a total body workout. On average, the class burns 8-9 extra calories a minute than the equivalent group cycling sessions…. meaning you could have just over 3 glasses of red wine, and not feel guilty!


Just don’t think for one second that these classes are a walk in the park! It’s rightfully named the “Sweat studio”! The nightclub environment guarantees to have your muscles burning, but at least you’ll complete the class with a grin on your face as you sing and climb to the beat.

Not only can you feel the calories fall away, the engineering and design of the VersaClimber means you are exercising in a way that causes zero stress to the body, unlike running or CrossFit classes.

If you’re tired of the same old circuits or spinning classes, this unique, climbing-based class will definitely mix up your fitness routine!

Give it a go! What have you got to lose?

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Is your fitness obsession driving you into debt?

For some people exercise is a luxury lifestyle they can’t do without — but they also can’t afford

Dynamic Pilates at Heartcore, £27

Dynamic Pilates at Heartcore, £27

If you want to work out in a walnut-floored boutique studio with an exclusive handful of classmates dripping in Lululemon finery, you must be prepared to pay for the privilege. And it seems that we are. Our fitness expenditure is spiralling, not just in terms of the amount paid for bespoke classes and personal trainers, but on the high-end clothing we wear to them, the £200 running shoes and the entry fees for ever more glamorous endurance challenges.

Where once a designer handbag was an expression of status, now it is your choice of workout and where you do it. So when Prince Harry is spotted heading to the £8,000-a-year KX Gym in Chelsea, London, those who live to work out, rather than work out to live, don’t bat an eyelid. They know how expensive a luxury gym habit can be.

Charlotte Quesnel, a 38-year-old database manager from London, says she made the switch from a regular gym — where the monthly direct debit from her account was £60 — to a boutique studio last year. “It took some serious rebudgeting as it costs me about five times more than I was previously paying, but it’s become part of my lifestyle rather than something I fit in when I have time,” she says.

Quesnel is part of a tribe that puts fitness outlay before all else. Its members prioritise the pursuit of wellness and all it promises — perfect posture, even-keeled emotions and a hoisted butt — even when it puts pressure on their bank balances. I know people who once moaned about their monthly direct debit to a gym, but who now reel off a fitness agenda so extravagant it would rival the training programme of an elite athlete. There are twice-weekly visits to a Pilates teacher, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or boxing sessions at a bespoke gym, runs (often with a trainer), yoga classes and sports massage with a physiotherapist to iron out the inevitable aching muscles.

Fine if they can afford it, but many can’t. Sue Hayward, a personal finance and consumer expert, says that overspending on fitness is common and an increasing contributor to personal debt. “A lot of people are spending too much,” she says.

Among them is Caroline (not her real name) from Guildford whose gym spending escalated to the point where her bank withdrew her debit card. “I went to a gym where I paid £12 a session for classes and was going almost every day,” she says. “As they were HIIT-style strength classes, I needed yoga to help my flexibility and that was £15 a time. Before I knew it I was racking up almost £400 a month and was way overdrawn.”

Hayward says that it’s far easier to justify spending a large chunk of your monthly salary on a barre class or bespoke boxing session than a shopping spree. A report by Virgin Active last month revealed that half of Londoners see their workout spending as an investment in their health rather than a cost. It underlines just how far some people’s mindsets — and their spending habits — have shifted. “Our perspective on exercise has changed,” Hayward says. “It’s easy to get hooked on the appeal of luxury fitness trends and to convince yourself they are worth paying for. People feel virtuous about doing anything fitness-related and convince themselves that spending huge amounts of money on it is worthwhile.”

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a non-profit research company, the worldwide wellness market is worth $372 trillion, but is expected to grow a further 17 per cent by the end of 2020. It is an industry with a growth trajectory “that appears unstoppable”, GWI’s senior researchers said, making it “one of the world’s fastest-growing, most resilient markets”. There’s certainly no sign of an imminent downturn in fortune.

David Minton, the managing director of the market-research company Leisure DB, who has been tracking UK consumer fitness habits for more than three decades, predicts that we are entering a “golden age of fitness” and that “several milestones are likely to be hit” this year, including a peak in spending.

Collectively, we spend £4.7 billion on gym memberships in the UK, a rise of 6.3 per cent since 2016. That figure is likely to exceed £5 billion this year and doesn’t include the luxury add-ons that are eating into our surplus cash.

“Without doubt, there is a sector of the population that is spending more and more on fitness,” Minton says. “A growing number of people are ditching their £40 to £60 direct debt to a gym chain and spending quadruple that amount — or more — on tailored sessions at boutique gyms.”

A decade ago it was unthinkable to have more than one gym payment a month. Yet Minton says we have reached the point where paying up to £30 for a single class is normal and some think nothing of sweating their way through double and occasionally triple workouts on the same day.

It’s not just the healthy, wealthy silver army who are paying a premium to preserve their bodies. In January the fitness brand Myprotein surveyed 2,800 UK adults aged 18 to 65 and found that the debt-ridden millennial generation spend the most on fitness, averaging £155 monthly on an array of gym sessions and kit.

Even students, long considered the group least likely to squander cash on healthy pursuits, are cutting back on alcohol and spending up to four times more on fitness than they were a decade ago, according to a recent survey conducted by the student letting app SPCE. “The number and range of people prepared to pay £20 or £30 just to get sweaty for an hour is incredible,” Minton says. “There are now around 600 boutique gyms in London alone and most are thriving. The demand and willingness to pay is there.”

Not that overspending is confined to weekly workouts — the cost of entering events also hits the bank balance. Thousands take part in events such as the Colour Run, in which you pay £28 to run 5km while being splashed with paint, while others will part with five-figure sums to participate in global tests of stamina such as the North Pole Marathon or the Antarctic Ice Marathon.

For those who want to push themselves farther, signing up for Iron Man triathlons can cost anything from £5,000 to £12,000 by the time you factor in race entry, training plans, pool subscription and the kit required for the disciplines. Meanwhile, the cost for entry to the Marathon des Sables — the notoriously gruelling stomp across the Sahara desert, billed the “toughest footrace on earth” — is £4,250 this year. That does include flights, but not the hundreds more you will need to spend on “mandatory” desert-friendly running gear to endure the six days and 156 miles in searing heat. I know people who would spend less on a car, yet have done it not once, but three or four times.

Where will it end? Minton says there will inevitably be a tipping point. “Our gym spending has consistently risen year on year,” he says. “Most people can’t sustain a thrice-weekly boutique gym habit indefinitely.” On the average budget something has to give if high levels of gym debt is to be avoided. Yet Quesnel speaks for many in saying she has no intention of cutting back. “It is super-expensive for me,” she says, “but just for the benefits and positive change to my lifestyle I think it’s worth spending that much on it.”

How fitness debt stacks up

Pair of Nike VaporMax Flynit 2 £169.95

Yoga class at Triyoga £17

Barry’s Bootcamp class £20

Psycle London spinning class £20

Weekly deep fascial release massage session at Twenty Two Training £100

Barre Class at Frame £14

AquaFit session at Bulgari Spa £125

Barrecore ballet-inspired class £28

Month’s membership of Third Space £142-£185 (plus £50 joining fee)

Month’s membership of Equinox £210 (plus £400 initiation fee)

Personal training £60-£250 an hour

GPS fitness tracker £200

Entry to London Triathlon Olympic Plus event £135.70

Wattbike smart cycle £2,250

Work out for nothing

More than 1.6 million people take part in these events held at more than 520 locations around the UK (and overseas if you fancy some Parkrun touring).

Sweaty Betty
The women’s gym clothing store offers free in-store classes from yoga to barre. You need to be quick to grab a place.

Our Parks
This initiative provides free 60-minute classes at a range of parks across Greater London. Select from circuit training, abs workout, Box Fit, bootcamp, etc.

Offset the cost of those expensive leggings by booking a free run club or yoga class.

Good Gym
Go on a “mission run” to help a community cause (eg a run to collect an elderly person’s shopping or clear litter from a park).

Tennis For Free
Free 90-minute sessions (followed by half an hour of “open” play) delivered by tennis coaches at venues around the UK.

Source: The Times