Hit the ground running (pun intended) and know what you’re up against when it comes to opening your fitness studio in Metro Vancouver.

From Fitness Toner, to Business Owner

You’re passionate about fitness and you have been for a long time. You’ve cut your teeth working as a personal trainer, taking your excitement for healthy living and instilling it others.

But you’re more than that and your enthusiasm doesn’t end there.

You love the fitness side of things, but you love the business. Selling your ideas, running your own schedule, being your own boss; you’re an entrepreneur.

You’ve got the vision. The wheels are in motion, your business plan is ready, or your franchise agreement is signed, and it’s time to get busy. You need your own studio, and you need it now. What’s next?

Boutique Business, Mainstream Opportunity

It’s no secret that Vancouverites love their fitness. The North American fitness and health club industry is estimated at over 43 billion dollars and growing. A large part of that growth is being driven by the rise of boutique fitness as it’s quickly become the fastest growing sector within the fitness industry. This expansive growth, coupled with a combination of economic, social, and cultural factors, has led to boutique fitness studios sweeping across the Metro Vancouver area and throughout the United States and Canada.

But you already knew that, didn’t you? That’s why you’re here.

Now What?

Alright – You’ve got the business plan, you’ve got the passion, you’ve picked a growing market segment with plenty of room for new entrants and growth. How do you go about finding the perfect location for your fitness studio?

Although leasing commercial retail space for fitness is similar to leasing space for most other traditional retail uses, there are some unique challenges. Leasing traditional retail spaces usually involves the following:

  • Identify your market:
    Know which area of town you’re hoping to put your studio in. This may be a predetermined territory assigned to you, a popular retail corridor known for high vehicle or pedestrian traffic, or in close proximity to where your target clientele live and/or work.
  • Survey the area for potential sites:
    Now that you’ve decided on the market, identify current vacancies, potential upcoming vacancies and / or new developments coming to market in that area (or get your agent to). Pick your favourite and GO!
  • Offer to Lease:
    Time to get serious and draft that offer! Your agent should be able to assist you with this. Make sure you’ve enlisted someone familiar with retail leases, so they know what to include and what to look for in that offer.
  • Due Diligence:
    Dot your I’s and cross your T’s. This step can save you a lot of headaches down the road. By now, you’ll also want to engage a contractor and architect to begin the process of getting you a construction quote and arranging to prepare drawings once the lease is finalized.
  • Lease Negotiation:
    Working with your lawyer and / or your agent, you’ll want to work through the intricacies and nuances of the lease to make sure you’re protected.
  • Possession:
    Hooray! You made it this far! Get the keys and put your contractor to work!

Now here are some common challenges:

This is the part where you’ll want to pay attention. Throughout the process, you’ll want to keep the following potential pitfalls in mind to mitigate the risks of one of these possible issues derailing your opening plans.

  • Good Real Estate:
    Metro Vancouver, and Vancouver in particular, is notorious for having a shortage of well-positioned commercial real estate opportunities. With such low vacancy rates, and retail nodes so highly concentrated by geographical boundaries, good real estate gets snatched up quickly and can be hard to find on your own.
  • Zoning:
    When looking for your ideal studio location, it’s important to make sure the zoning of the property you’re considering supports fitness as a use. Zoning bylaws vary between municipalities, so it’s important to make sure your space can accommodate your use before signing on the dotted line.
  • Parking:
    Confirming that your potential location is zoned for fitness is sometimes not enough. As part of the approval process, many municipalities will not only require appropriate zoning, but they may also require a certain amount of dedicated parking stalls to be associated with the unit you’re hoping to lease based on rentable square feet. This can seem counter-intuitive, particularly in mixed-use developments where parking is already complicated enough.
  • Use Approval:
    Okay – you found the ideal space, the zoning works, and there’s enough parking to support the City’s requirements. You’re now in the clear, right? Maybe. But you’re better off double and triple checking. Give the City a call and provide the address of the potential property and let the City planner know what you’re hoping to do. If the person on the other end of the phone isn’t very helpful, try calling again and hope you get another person who might be more helpful, or catch them in a better mood. This process can be tiresome, but it’s generally worth it for peace of mind.
  • Noise:
    Anyone who loves boutique fitness classes might appreciate that the blaring music, shouting instructors, and the occasional howl from your fellow workout buddies affirming their engagement can make up a huge part of the boutique fitness experience. That said, it’s important that you and the landlord have a similar set of expectations as it relates to noise levels within the premises. This becomes even more critical in mixed-use projects where your ceiling-mounted speakers might be directly below a second-floor office space, or someone’s bedroom. Make sure you take the necessary steps to ensure everyone’s on the same page, even if this means investing in soundproofing early on.

Photo credit: George Pagan

Ready, Set, GOAL

Opening your own fitness studio in the Metro Vancouver area is no easy feat. But you’re up to the task. You’ve got what it takes.

If you’re looking for help navigating the ins and outs of leasing commercial real estate in the Metro Vancouver area for the purpose of your own gym or fitness studio, please do not hesitate to contact me with all of your questions and inquiries. I would be happy to help!

For more information on this topic, or others like it, please contact me at jcurteanu@form.ca or 604 638 2124.