Putting The Personal Back In Training

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

While working at a Boston health club 12 years ago, Rob Shapiro heard a lot of workout-related gripes from people who wanted more privacy—and an escape from those athletic 20-somethings—than the average gym provided.

So he decided to create a place were people could work one-on-one with a trainer and avoid the crowded feeling of a health club.

In 1997, with the help of a Small Business Administration loan, Shapiro opened BodyScapes in the Boston suburb of Newton. Three additional locations have since opened in the affluent suburbs of Wellesley and Lexington and the Back Bay neighborhood. Corporate units are called BodyScapes Personal Training, but franchised units will be branded under the name One2One BodyScapes.

“A gym membership works great for some people, but it can be easy to blow it off when you’ve got something else to do,” Shapiro says, which is why his clients make appointments for training sessions. Each client decides how often to train, usually two or three times a week, he says.

Clients—the majority of whom are women between the ages of 35 and 55—purchase packages of six, 12, or 22 training sessions, at an average cost of $77 per session.

In 2004, the company unveiled a health club concept called BodyScapes Fitness, with a single unit in Southborough. The concept is a small and upscale gym, says Shapiro, with membership running $65 a month and the same personal training packages available at a slight discount to members. They aren’t currently planning to franchise the health club.

BodyScapes allows people to work with a personal trainer in private, rather than in the hubbub of a health club.

System-wide revenues were $2.5 million last year, says Alan Smith, a childhood friend of Shapiro’s who joined the company in 2001 to help with expansion, and the company is projecting around $3 million this year.

BodyScapes will expand throughout Massachusetts—another franchise will open this summer in Needham—but intends to grow nationally, as well. They’re targeting mostly affluent urban areas and the surrounding suburbs with an average household income of $100,000 and a population of about 15,000 to 20,000 people. They expect to have 12 units open by the end of the year.

Eric Stutman, one of the company’s first franchisees, is a licensed personal trainer. A former engineer, Stutman was looking for a concept he could feel good about. He signed the agreement with BodyScapes in March, and his Wayland location was scheduled to be opened by early July. “Pumping people full of hamburgers and doughnuts is very profitable,” he says, “but I didn’t really feel great about it.” An average BodyScapes studio is between 1,500 and 2,000 square feet. A mature studio has about 80 to 120 clients, but can be successful with a few as 20 to 40, Smith says. The majority of the clients are between ages 35 and 55, and about two-thirds are women. Trainers are salaried, unlike at many health clubs where they’re paid per client. This limits turnover and competition among trainers for new clients, says Shapiro.

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154 Turnpike Rd
Southborough, MA

Phone: (508) 460-8882

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