More Than a Gym: Equinox Provides Aspirational Lifestyle at a Premium Price
At the turn of the year, premium fitness club Equinox made waves with its “We Don’t Speak January” initiative, banning new member registrations on January 1st. Turning away potential members during the New Year signup surge may seem counterintuitive, but this deep commitment to their brand and ethos is at the heart of Equinox’s success – not just as a gym but as a lifestyle brand.
Leaders in fitness retail are changing the conversation around New Year’s and wellness. Major players are working to redefine the traditional mindset that the gym is merely a place to go to get fit. Rather, trending gyms like Equinox are becoming true lifestyle brands, becoming a source of pride and importance to their customers. This shift drives a change in consumer behavior, elevates brand image, and ultimately positions these players to win.
Today’s fitness leaders increasingly sell an aspirational lifestyle to their active, and wellness-focused target customer, and command a premium membership rate in doing so. Rather than communicating traditional fitness benefits (e.g., bodybuilding or weight-loss), Equinox’s messaging is focused on an existing core member base that is already committed to a healthy lifestyle, looking for a like-minded community. A deluge of “New You” marketing content could hurt this carefully curated vision.
The bold “We Don’t Speak January” campaign saw immediate traction, with weekly web traffic up 52% YoY and sales up 30% YoY (despite one less selling day) per Fortune.
Equinox’s move to block signups during a key season for new memberships was a major statement. However, based on the press coverage the controversial campaign received, we expect the brand was successful in driving even more sign-ups in the days that followed.
Through the campaign, the brand is still playing in the New Year’s resolution conversation, but it is intentionally targeting an aspirational consumer to make a committed lifestyle change with their exclusive brand that is more than just a gym.
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“More Than a Gym”
Founded in 1991, Equinox began as a single, upscale fitness center where members could both work out and hang out. Today, its 100+ clubs offer distinctive amenities, including full-service spas, saltwater pools, community classes, on-premises cafes, and shops offering branded merchandise. Equinox clubs are carefully curated to meet their upscale brand standards and positioning.
Equinox has expanded its portfolio to solidify its status as a provider of a premium fitness lifestyle, including:
- 2011: acquisition of upscale spinning studio SoulCycle
- 2019: opened the first Equinox Hotel in NYC and has since committed to opening more than 30 additional hotels in key markets by 2030
- 2021: launched Equinox+, a subscription-based fitness app providing online and on-demand classes
The strategy appears to be working: as of 2020 Equinox had grown to be the fourth-largest health club in the US despite many fewer locations than some of its competitors.
What can Retailers Learn?
Successful luxury retail brands have always sought to commercialize exclusivity and a premium, aspirational experience to justify their high price-point. Equinox seeks to bring this differentiation to the fitness and lifestyle space.
They have positioned themselves at the intersection of 3 important macro-trends: holistic health & wellness, experiential retail, and the younger consumer’s willingness to spend on experiences over material goods. They deeply understand what their target customers want and provide it to them unapologetically (as seen in the resonant “We Don’t Speak January” campaign).
Retailers and brands of any kind who seek to gain customer loyalty can follow a similar formula. Understanding a market need, identifying a target customer, and then effectively and consistently providing them with something they love is the recipe for retail success.
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