Workout Anytime looks to muscle its way into Houston

November 9, 2018 GMT

An Atlanta fitness club is planning to muscle its way into the competitive Houston market, looking to capitalize on the region’s growing health consciousness.

Workout Anytime, a chain of boutique gyms, is talking with a handful of interested franchise partners to open as many as 20 locations in the Houston area over the next couple of years. Founded in 1998, the company expanded to Dallas last year and quickly launched 18 locations in North Texas and one in Waco.

“We’re excited to get into the Houston market,” said Jimmy Mak, a franchise developer with the company. “We think it’ll be a good market for us.”

Fitness clubs are expanding amid a national emphasis on healthy living, spurred by public health campaigns against obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Gym memberships nationally grew 3.4 percent annually between 2012 and 2016, according to the most recent data from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a trade group.

Today, 57.3 million Americans — about a fifth of the U.S. population — have gym memberships. Houstonians spend anywhere from $10 a month to hundreds of dollars a month in membership fees.

The $33.7 billion fitness club industry is forecast to add more than 6,000 new locations nationally over the next five years, many of them in Texas. Nearly 7 percent of the nation’s gyms are in the Lone Star State, eclipsed only by California and New York, according to IBISWorld, a Los Angeles-based market research firm.

Jason Gaines, a retail broker with Houston-based commercial real estate firm NAI Partners, said he has seen an increase in the number of fitness club leases over the past five years, ranging from a 1,000-square-foot yoga studio to a 20,000-square-foot gym.

Houston has a variety of fitness clubs, including boutique gyms such as Orange Theory and Equinox; specialty clubs such as CrossFit, Barre and SoulCycle; mid-size clubs, such as LA Fitness and 24-Hour Fitness; value clubs such as Planet Fitness and Fitness Connection; and giant resort-like clubs such as Life Time and Villa Sports.

Earlier this year, Life Time opened a $42 million athletic club in Cypress spanning two stories and 248,000 square feet.

The proliferation of fitness clubs locally may seem odd in a city once ranked the “fattest city in America.” But Gaines said Houston is part of a national trend toward health consciousness.

“When you have 7 million people in an area, you’re going to have fitness fanatics,” Gaines said. “People are spending more money on the way they take care of their bodies.”

Workout Anytime hopes to stand out from the competition by offering a high-quality gym at affordable prices in a small facility that doesn’t have a mass-market feel, Mak said.

A basic membership starts from $19 a month. A premium membership, which includes perks such as unlimited tanning and one personal training session, costs $29 a month.

The company’s 170 clubs nationally average between 6,000 and 8,000 square feet. The gyms are open 24-hours, seven days a week.

“It’s not small, but not as big as the mass-market gyms,” Mak said. “People want a smaller, more inviting facility where they feel like it’s a family. People are drawn to a place where they feel comfortable showing up and working out.”

Workout Anytime, which started in Atlanta and grew mostly in the Southeast., is focusing its expansion in Texas, specifically Houston and soon, San Antonio. The company recently signed a lease in Oklahoma, and plans to eventually move westward.

“Texas is the fastest-growing market for us right now,” Mak said.

The company has grown primarily through referrals, Mak said. Its Plano, Texas, gym opened earlier this year and has signed up 2,600 members in five months, he said. The club retains about 80 percent of its members after the first year, higher than the industry average of less than half, Mak said.

“Everyone wants to look good, but for most people now, they want to feel better,” Mak said. “More and more cities are becoming aware of that healthier lifestyle and Houston is one of them.”