SoulCycle, y7 and Brrrn are pumping up profits with branded merch
Been there, burned that, bought the T-shirt.
It’s not enough for fitness fanatics to snap themselves into a spin class or HIIT session on social media — they’ve got to wear their workout of choice on their sleeve.
And that’s the latest #fitspo trend that boutique fitness studios are cashing in on, by ramping up their merchandising game with clothing and accessories fit for wearing in and out of class.
More and more studios are following the SoulCycle model of slapping their logo onto a crop top, sports bra or pair of yoga pants, and selling them for upwards of $40 each — which sometimes costs more than the actual class. Owners tell Moneyish that it’s a crucial way to earn a second stream of revenue while effortlessly building brand awareness.
“The merchandise and the apparel is icing on the cake for us,” said Johnny Adamic, co-founder of Brrrn, a cool new Manhattan strength training class that’s done between 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to selling classes starting at $34 each, guests can also buy sweatshirts to wear inside the chilly studios with the brand’s snowflake logo, as well hats, fingerless gloves, beanies and sweatpants that fit into the icy aesthetic. Adamic teamed up with clothing maker Alternative Apparel to design pieces for Brrrrn that range from $40 to $60. Clothing is on sale currently at the studio, with plans to expand to online in the coming months.
“Our goal is to hit anywhere from 10 to 20% of our gross sales on merch,” said Adamic.
Capitalizing on athletic clothing is a no-brainer for gyms and fitness studios. The athleisure trend is making $44 billion a year, according to market research firm NPD Group. And the category is expected to grow to $83 billion by 2020, Morgan Stanley estimates.
SoulCycle is often credited with pioneering the gym swag movement through its own in-house fashion line of flywheel and skull-clad leggings, hoodies and zip-ups that are placed in front of studios to attract customers. SoulCycle’s retail business alone sees 20% to 30% growth every year, and in 2016, retail sales outnumbered actual spin class sales, Raked reported.
Bizzie Gold, founder of B Mvmt, a hot yoga studio in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and creator of the Buti at-home yoga workout, has a namesake reversible clothing line, NKD by Bizzie Gold, featuring tropical palm-tree printed sports bras; glow-in-the-dark zebra booty shorts and yoga pants priced between $35 and $150. Gold says that 37% of her total gross revenue last year was generated by apparel, branded merch and supplements. And strategically placing her studio-to-streetwear collection at the front of the store lures customers in and gets them to try the workout, she said.
“It’s been crazy how many people come off the street wanting to just buy the merch,” said Gold “People walk in drawn to the clothing, and then take a tour and don’t ever leave.”
Other fitness centers, like hip hop and infrared heat-blasting Y7 Studio’s New York and California locations, actually look more like clothing boutiques than places to practice yoga. The Zen den is painted all black, and has hanging apparel printed with lyrics like “Brooklyn We Flow Hard” on sweatshirts, and Cardi B-inspired excerpts including “I make yoga moves” on tanks that are promoted all over Instagram. The studio is also adorned with neon lights shaped in the brand’s signature prayer hands — perfect for photo ops in the $35 hats for sale that say “All my girls do yoga,” providing even more free promotion for the “tribe called sweat.”
The fitness swag has been designed to look cool after a sweat session so you can wear things like sleek leggings out to brunch or zip-ups while running errands. Plus, buying merch with your favorite class logo on it is a way for people to look like they’re part of the cool club while repping an aspirational lifestyle, branding experts say.
“It says, ‘I’m a part of this tribe, I can afford to go here, and I’m healthy,” branding expert Chuck Welch tells Moneyish. “People are signaling through their clothes that they are in on this elevated healthy lifestyle.”
And it’s working in reverse, as well, with retail stores using the growing wellness obsession to hawk their athletic brands by luring in customers with fitness classes. Last year, Saks Fifth Avenue opened The Wellery, a pop-up floor in its flagship Fifth Avenue store offering classes from ConBody, the prison-style boot camp workout; Bendable Body, a stretching method that works on connective tissue; and MNDFL meditation classes, all the while promoting up-and-coming activewear brands such as Heroine Sport, Phat Buddha and Beyond Yoga
Selling swag is a marketing move that works to get consumers invested beyond the class, and has transformed a mere workout into a lifestyle.
“Wellness is now an aspirational and social signifier,” Welch explained to Moneyish. “Before, you would never buy clothing from a gym; now you can buy well-made, brand-driven clothing because fitness is becoming a part of your wellness identity, and not just a place where you sweat.”
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