March 11, 2021

5 min read

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Since 1965, when the first Gold’s Gym opened in Venice, CA, the fitness business model has offered consumers a somewhat limited big-box experience that, in five decades, has remained much the same. With COVID-19 now disrupting that model, and changing the way consumers pursue fitness, it’s time for the grocery sector to shake up the routine. 

In forcing the shutdown of physical gyms, COVID-19 has driven a more flexible approach to fitness. The past year saw boutique studios begin offering spin classes in parking lots and yoga in the park, while more people signed up for virtual programs they could participate in from the safety of home. Traditional brands like Nike and Lululemon turned living rooms into studios, enabling millions of people to work out “together” yet still remain safely apart.


While Covid has been the catalyst behind these innovations, it’s clear that consumers are ready for them. So we’re proposing a new fitness model. One that is both more flexible for customers and more resilient from a business standpoint. One that offers 360-degree wellness: classes, equipment, apparel, experts, food, and medicine.

With so many gyms filing for bankruptcy during the pandemic, there is available real estate. Our solution is to leverage it for an entirely new format where grocery retailers acquire it and convert it into 360-degree wellness centres.


Grocery already supports multiple lines of business, and a lot of their inventory—from vitamins to fresh food—has a health angle. Grocery also has a high level of digital integration, with online shopping and loyalty apps that are a perfect platform for launching and promoting new services. So why couldn’t these companies offer fitness as another related line of business and turn the store into a destination?

All-in-one convenience: fitting fitness into the routine

Imagine vast, state-of-the-art spaces—perhaps 10 in total, in urban areas across the country—where shoppers pop in for a spin class, purchase workout gear, pick up a prescription, and even consult with their wellness specialist. And if they order their groceries online ahead of time, they simply swing around to the back of the store after their workout to pick up their click-and-collect order before heading back home. Multiple missions accomplished in one visit.

Grocery retailers have the business model. They have the tier-one supply chains and brand partnerships. With this framework in place, it’s relatively simple for them to offer fitness as one more channel. They can also provide greater value because the fitness offer is supplemented with revenue from their core businesses.


It’s an opportunity for them to play an even bigger role in their customers’ lives: The majority of consumers—over 62 percent—are already at the grocery store once a week[1]. It’s also another avenue for informing product development, and supporting new launches, cross-promotion, and loyalty.

[1] Statista

Outdoor options: taking the brand outside

The substantial parking lots at grocery stores provide a unique opportunity to extend this business model beyond the destination facilities and bring elements of it to life across all grocery locations. Think high-energy classes and upbeat music on a warm spring or summer day, with branded signage prominently placed around the lot. It offers customers more variety for working out, while serving the brand as an effective promotional tool.

In-store specialists: packaging peak performance

Given grocery’s longstanding sports and fitness brand partnerships (think athlete-branded barbecue sauce and NFL Superbowl displays), the network is in place to extend these relationships. Imagine aligning with a company like Nike to offer sponsored programs in-gym, from fitness classes and physiotherapy to sleep hygiene—not to mention a complete range of Nike footwear and apparel. 

In this way the retailer is able to support more of the consumer’s fitness touchpoints: how they work out, what they wear, the equipment they use, how they fuel their bodies. It all culminates in a more cohesive offering that delivers 360-degree performance management.

Extending apps and enhancing loyalty

The robust apps already provided by many grocery retailers are a perfect platform to support a fitness offering. A consumer may work out three or four times a week—and each time, the app is their go-to. They can check schedules, connect with experts, access free introductory classes, view meal plans, track calories, browse products, view exclusive offers, read reviews, and earn rewards.


And for the retailer, the increased frequency of interaction offers new points of consumer data: Each connection creates an opportunity to promote areas of the business that fit that consumer’s lifestyle, and generate detailed behavioural data that drives insight and product development.


It’s also an opportunity to drive loyalty—and loyalty plays an important role in this grocery-fitness model, for a couple of reasons. First, because loyalty in fitness takes on a more holistic context: Customers are not merely earning points for supporting a brand; they’re being rewarded for living a healthier life—which in turn reflects well on the brand.


Second, loyalty helps close the loop between fitness and grocery: Through gym memberships, fitness classes, and wellness services, customers earn points they can apply to groceries—and vice versa. Supporting one offsets costs for the other.

Consumers have demonstrated their willingness to rethink their approach to fitness, helping to create conditions that are conducive to evolving it. Now is the time for grocery brands to build it. While the traditional, stand-alone gym will always be a fitness mainstay, there’s a strong business incentive to strengthen the current model, and grocery is just the sector to take on the challenge.