Managing Your Studio’s Reopening in a Pandemic
How to leverage the boutique-studio-advantage to reach and retain clients in the wake of COVID-19.
Merrithew™ is the global leader in mind-body education and equipment. Founded in 1988 by Lindsay and Moira Merrithew, the company has trained 60,000 instructors and partners around the world, developed six innovative education programs, including STOTT PILATES®, and has produced an extensive line of professional and at-home equipment and accessories.
As studio owners begin cautiously resuming business and welcoming clients back, they’re faced with a new reality—the fitness landscape is not the same one they left some months ago.
Now, they’re screening clients for COVID-19, redesigning their spaces to abide by physical distancing, implementing stringent cleaning protocols and dealing with reduced capacity— not to mention trying to make a living and paying their instructors.
It’s an overwhelming situation. But the good news is, after lockdown and isolation, clients are eager to return to the studio. According to research conducted by MindBody, 78% of consumers say they prefer in-person options because of the greater sense of community and accountability. Furthermore, 58% say they are more comfortable with the idea of visiting a boutique studio versus a multiplex gym.
Boutique studios might have the upper hand for some time— class sizes are generally smaller, members are familiar, the spaces are more compact and easier to clean, with less traffic and fewer machines, and clients are already used to booking in advance.
Here’s how one Merrithew™ Host Training Center in California is managing client expectations and putting health and safety first.
A Boutique Studio Case Study
Christina Bouni-Bonorris, Owner
Keeping clients safe: We’re taking the temperature of staff and members when they come into the studio, and they must wear masks indoors, as is stipulated by the California government. For Reformer Pilates, the masks don’t seem to be too much of a problem, but it’s more challenging for yoga. We’ve also considered putting see-through shower curtains between the Reformers as a low-cost barrier option.
Physical distancing accommodations: We’ve limited classes to six people, and the Reformers are set up 6-feet apart. I also ordered the Merrithew Double Loop Strap Vinyl Covers to cover the Reformer handles and make them easier to clean. Clients love them, and we’ve had really positive feedback.
Cleaning protocols: Clients sanitize their hands upon arrival and departure. The classes are now 45 minutes instead of 55 to give staff enough time to thoroughly clean and sanitize the equipment. Clients wear toe socks, but not gloves.
Client offering: We’re teaching three classes outside without masks— cardio, cycling, and tone and strength, and we’ve started sometimes taking yoga and mat Pilates outside as well. We teach three classes inside with masks— reformer, mat and yoga. Members love the outdoor classes, and we’re considering keeping those going even after the pandemic is over.
Feedback from clients: Our community is eager to reconnect and reengage with one another at the studio, and that’s been very positive. This period of isolation has been tough on everyone, including us as a business. We lost about 64% of our business and haven’t received any break on rent. We’re not sure what the future holds.
Leveraging New Opportunities Amidst the Challenges
With an uncertain future ahead, now is the time for studio owners to experiment and innovate to reach new clients, such as through outdoor training. Here are two other ways:
- Adopt a hybrid business model: If you started offering online classes while in lockdown, keep it up. This is a great way to reach new clients, grow brand awareness and retain clients who might not be ready to return. MindBody found that 43% of clients plan to go back to their regular routines and continue with virtual training post-pandemic.
- Offer more than just fitness classes: This strange time has only emphasized the importance of health and fitness, so empower your staff and clients with continuing education options. Merrithew offers several online courses and workshops in STOTT PILATES® and other modalities for fitness professionals and enthusiasts.
Complement your instructor training, get programming ideas, client cueing tips, workout inspiration and more from Merrithew’s leading Instructor Trainers on our streaming platform, Merrithew Connect™.