If you’ve been toying with the idea of opening your own pilates studio, someone in your inner circle has most likely shared the age-old adage “location, location, location.” And it’s true; location can make or break the success of a business, especially since rent generally accounts for the biggest chunk of a studio’s monthly expenses. Making the wrong choice location-wise is a mistake that is oftentimes impossible to overcome.
Before you start hunting for the perfect space, you need to have a heart-to-heart with yourself and ask the following questions: What do I need to have? What would I love to have? What won’t I compromise on? And finally, how much can I afford to spend? Biting off more than you can chew is the kiss of death for start-ups, so here are a few things to consider when searching out the perfect home for your new venture.
The better the retail exposure, the less you can generally expect to spend on marketing, and vice versa. There are many types of spaces you can rent and each comes with it’s own unique pros and cons. For example:
- Ground Floor Retail Space: Generally these spaces have the greatest opportunities for exposure. High-traffic areas such as shopping centers provide fantastic access to potential clients since your business is visible and accessible. While these spaces are great for exposure, they do usually come with a higher price tag.
- Interior Space: An interior space in a commercial building can offer some advantages, along with a lower price point and generally better lease terms. However, you will most likely need to work harder to let clients know you are there. If you already have a strong following of clients, and don’t need the exposure, an interior space will definitely save you money.
Having great business neighbors who will attract the customer base you are looking for can be very advantageous. For example, being close to a restaurant or health food store will most likely bring lots of foot/car traffic past your storefront. On the flip side, if your neighbor is not going to attract the right people to your business (or may potentially scare away your clients!) that can be a disadvantage. Establishing a health and fitness brand next to a Vape shop that sells E-Cigarettes might not leave your clientele feeling so Zen.
One thing to consider when choosing the right location is whether the surrounding neighborhood is prime for feeding your business. Is this location convenient for your clientele? Will the surrounding residential or business market be interested in the services you will be offering? How many of those people will be able to afford your services?
Remember the famous “Field of Dreams” line: “If you build it they will come?” Well, that’s not always the case. You want to make sure that the location you choose has the customer demographics you are looking for. To do that, ask your broker to run a radius search of the surrounding area to find out information such as male to female ratios, average household income, age, population size, and commercial vs. residential properties. You should also do a search to find out how many (if any) competing businesses are in the surrounding area.
One thing I always do when evaluating a new space is to think like a client. To that end, one of the things most clients look for when choosing a new studio is convenience. Is the location hassle free for your customers? Ask yourself if they can get to the studio within 15 minutes of wherever they spend the most time (work, schools, home?) and if they have to sit in in traffic to get there?
Accessible parking is another huge contributing factor. While free parking is always great, in this market it may be hard to come by. I find that most clients simply want to know that they will find easy and affordable parking, especially if you want them to visit multiple times per week.
This may be one of the most important factors of all. You can find the most beautiful space, complete with convenient parking and accessibility to the clientele that you are looking for… but at a price tag that could put your business under. When it comes to deciding how much you can afford to spend on rent you should look to your business plan and your budget. Calculate how much business you think you can do and that will help you find a clear answer to how much rent you can afford. There is a lot of information out there on calculating sales-to-rent ratio, but, in my opinion, a boutique fitness business should not have a ratio higher than 15 percent. So if you think you can generate $20,000 in revenue per month, your total rent should not exceed $3,000 per month. It is crucial that you calculate this before finalizing a lease in order to ensure you will be able to meet the costs of your monthly overhead.
As I said above, actual “location, location, location” is just one of the factors (albeit an incredibly important one) that goes into finding the right space for your studio. From parking to convenience, it’s finding the perfect combination of ingredients for your studio that will ultimately help you make the best decision on the location of your business, and will set the tone for what’s to come.