Can Campus Rec Centers offer Boutique Experiences?


Boutique studios are one of the hottest fitness trends nationwide. Driving it? Your students. Millenials and Gen Z’s who value health and crave connection. Already, the boutique is denting traditional gym membership revenue. Is it possible some of your potential customers are hitting the local yoga studio, forgoing your campus rec center? Could you win them back plus become a major campus attraction by offering a boutique experience?

Before you decide if “boutique” is right for the campus environment, consider shifting consumer tastes. Young consumers want quality, meaningful experiences and the personal touch. And, businesses from travel, hospitality and retail to food, fitness and beyond are responding with tiered service levels, enhanced customer experiences and customization.

What’s more your target audience, Millennials and Gen Z’s, are more active than previous generations. They’ve grown up with choice, technology and 24/7 connectivity. They don’t just enjoy engaging with brands; they expect it. This bodes well for the boutique, which appeals to generations that want their experiences to feel worthwhile, plus help them achieve their fitness goals.

Hallmarks of the Boutique You Can Adopt

  • Fresh business model: The boutique model is high in design, atmosphere and technology. It’s about flexibility, choice and results, relying on customer knowledge, branding, communication and delivering excellence through strong talent.
  • Compelling differentiator: Boutique studios do just one thing … brilliantly. They build their reputations on excellence, personality and specialization. This, along with equipment that underpins their brand story, makes their marketing and communications more effective.
  • Technology and social media: Boutiques share with their customers who they want to share their experience because smartphones, wifi, mobile apps and constant connectivity provide both “community” and “autonomy”. 
  • Customers Psychographics: Millenials and Gen Z’s are aspirational. They need to make good use of their time and money. They are discerning about brands and favor a sense of belonging.
  • People and Feelings: Boutiques invest in people. They pay attention to the entire customer experience from the website, to how customers are greeted, to how their product delivers and is delivered.

10 Easy Tips to Bring the Boutique Experience to your Campus Rec Center

  1. Innovate now to win big (before you’re forced to catch up).
  2. Clearly differentiate. Be something great to someone, not everything to everyone.
  3. Create a consistent level of service.
  4. Reinvent how you service your market.
  5. Clearly define a plan and strategy–avoid too many goals or ideas.
  6. Prize agility in your business model.
  7. Make sure your equipment fits your purpose and brand.
  8. Cater solutions around your member type and ability–support them.
  9. Grow a skilled, expert, continually trained team.
  10. Have a branded program that keeps your space exciting week after week.

Matthew Januszek is Co-Founder and Customer Solutions Director at Escape Fitness. For more information, visit, call 614-706-4462 or email

Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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