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Tough Mudder Bootcamp Coming To Atlanta With Up To 30 Locations

Another new boutique fitness chain is looking to muscle its way into Atlanta's retail market. 

A Tough Mudder Bootcamp class

Brooklyn, New York-based Tough Mudder Bootcamp is eyeing an entry into Atlanta's retail fitness market with up to 30 locations, Franchise Director Dan Henry said.

“Atlanta is one of our top focus markets, if not the top focus market in the entire United States,” Henry said.

Tough Mudder was established in 2010 by a Harvard Business School student, Will Dean, who devised a high-intensity, military-style obstacle course race where participants aid each other. Annual Tough Mudder races are one of the fastest-growing athletic activities in the U.S., drawing upward of 15,000 participants, Digiday reported.

Now an established brand, Tough Mudder officials are taking the concept into the retail boutique gym, with its first venue having opened in Boston earlier this year. A second location is expected to debut in Las Vegas later this year, Henry said.

Henry said Tough Mudder Bootcamp is scouting suburban Atlanta markets, especially areas where average household incomes are at least $75K/year. Submarkets where Tough Mudder is planning gyms include Roswell, Alpharetta, Tucker and Decatur.

“We're not looking to be in big downtown markets,” he said. "We want more of an underserved, suburban market. You're not going to find good parking in Downtown Atlanta."

Tough Mudder Bootcamp Business Development Director Dan Henry

Tough Mudder Bootcamp is just the latest boutique fitness craze to dot strip centers across Metro Atlanta, and is part of a burgeoning boutique fitness industry across the U.S.

Fitness studios are the fastest-growing segment of the overall fitness industry, with more than 100,000 businesses operating across the country, according to the Association of Fitness Studios. Overall, the fitness industry has seen tremendous growth, with revenues skyrocketing from $11.6B in 2000 to $27.6B in 2016, according to Statista.

But the boutique fitness segment is outmuscling the growth of mainstream fitness gyms like LA Fitness. As of 2014, boutiques accounted for more than 20% of the total health club industry, with boutique studios having grown by 400% between 2010 and 2014, according to a 2015 Stephens report. The industry leaders of the boutique fitness world include names like Flywheel, CrossFit, Pure Barre, Orangetheory and SoulCycle.

The attraction to boutique is being driven by some the same megatrend as the rest of commercial real estate, from office to industrial to apartments: millennials.

For millennials, boutique fitness studios represent more than just a place to work out. They have also become a place to form a community, CBRE First Vice President Amy Fingerhut said.

She belongs to two different boutique concepts, including Fast Twitch Total Body in Atlanta. Fingerhut said she and her husband find themselves bonding with the other participants and forming friendships that carry over beyond the workout sessions.

“You end up going out to dinner with them. You end up having a lifestyle with them,” she said. “It's become our lifestyle. It's totally different. I finally canceled my LA Fitness membership in March. I realized for the last two years, I walked into LA Fitness twice.”

There is certainly evidence that this tribe-building mentality is driving the boutique industry. According to Stephens, 63% of consumers who attend boutique fitness studios mainly did so because of the other people there.

Tough Mudder Bootcamp is already in discussions with six potential franchisees in Atlanta. And the organization plans to host its world championship — World's Toughest Mudder — in Atlanta for the first time in November, Henry said.

“We have a significant amount of interest in the Atlanta market,” he said.

Franklin Street Senior Director Greg Eisenman said he does not expect the influx of new boutique fitness studios to slow down anytime soon in Atlanta. But, like any other major retail trend, it will eventually exhaust itself.

Part of the key for a successful studio is with the instructors. Their personalities and ability to lure in customers is critical to a studio's success. But there are also a limited number of such professionals in any one market.

"In order to be successful, you [have] to have really good trainers. And these trainers become mini-celebrities," he said. "There will come a point where there's just too much and the market saturates." 

CORRECTION, AUG. 20, 3:00 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified where Tough Mudder Bootcamp is based. It is out of Brooklyn, New York. The story has been updated.