Equinox: An Interesting & Important Player In The Evolving US Health Club Market

Ironically I was working on an article regarding Equinox Fitness in the past few days when I got the call from Los Angeles Business Journal reporter @AlexaHyland . Alexa wanted to know my thoughts regarding Equinox's recent acquisition of of The Sports Club Company's four properties located in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Orange County and New York's Rockefeller Center for a reported $130 Million. Alexa asked some good questions and I don't want to spoil her important story which I'll share with readers later. I did, however, want to opine on Equinox in general and ask the question : can Equinox grow 4 concepts simultaneously ?

The Sports Club acquisition was really no surprise. The health club industry is going through a combination of consolidation and evolving business models . As a health club industry expert, I've spent a lot of time sharing my views of what I think will happen in this regard. Bigger isn't always better, while there are larger formidable competitors in the health club business benefiting from consolidation trends, in my view few are as interesting as Equinox. From their strategic agreements with Pure Yoga and Soul Cycle, to their thoughtful research and planning regarding Blink and the continued expansion of Equinox Fitness itself, this health club group, for its now 56 club size, has its hands full. Backed by The Related Companies, one of the largest real estate development and management companies in the United States , they've got the financial muscle (Equinox Holdings raised over $400 Million in 2010 via a Private Placement). With veteran CEO Harvey Spevak and a group of talented executives and a quality board of directors, I think they have an eye to the public market and perhaps that explains their aggressive moves.

More than their pedigree is that, I believe, they are trying to tap into the bifurcation trend in the Health Club Industry I've written and spoken about by working on 4 different facility concepts. As we know, some consumers are moving to lower priced value facilities (ala Planet Fitness) while others are appealing to higher end concepts. Smart players are increasingly avoiding the middle. To me it seems like Equniox Holdings is positioning itself to take a bite of the apple at both the low end via Blink Fitness and the higher end via its other brands. While executing multiple brands is quite challenging, its an interesting strategy and I know of no other brand undertaking this effort as vigorously . I've seen the multiple brand strategy before in other industries and its often unsuccessful. However, given really smart management and thoughtful concepts, it can be a profitable endeavor.

So tell me, Bryan O'Rourke, what do you think about Equinox and their prospects for growth ? Can Equinox grow 4 distinct brands simultaneously and will they be able to take advantage of the bifurcating US and Global Health Club Market via this strategy taking a bite at both ends of the market ? Please share your views and if you like this article please let people know.

BIO: Bryan O'Rourke is an expert on the Health Club Industry and CEO of Integerus, LLC and CSO of Fitmarc. He is a frequent speaker and published writer who advises leading global brands on strategy, technology, finance and marketing.