Fitness studio AKT could find itself dancing all the way to the bank if everything goes well with an ambitious expansion plan.
The New York-based boutique studio, created by celebrity trainer Anna Kaiser, is rooted in dance mixed in with interval, circuit and toning that’s garnered attention from Kelly Ripa and Shakira. It also turned to TPG Capital’s Xponential Fitness in March, which said it acquired assets of the dance studio to help it expand through franchising, adding AKT to a portfolio of other fitness brands that includes Club Pilates, CycleBar, StretchLab and Row House.
“[The health and wellness industry] is on an upswing and this is the perfect time to scale a boutique business because there’s so many who have not had access to a boutique brand and specifically a dance concept,” said AKT founder Anna Kaiser. “Boutique studios have been scaling slowly because they are run privately, so with this model we’re going to be able to scale much more quickly and build a community much more quickly. I think this is just the beginning.”
AKT is now scaling rapidly through a franchise model that has the business targeting the opening of some 150 to 200 locations over the next three years. About 25 should be opened within the next year, according to Kaiser.
“We are mostly focused on the right studio owners, so we are vetting owners very carefully,” Kaiser said. “We want to make sure the people who come in are really passionate about the brand and they have the right business background and personality to own and run a studio and be a good partner with us, so that could be anywhere in the United States.”
Kaiser added that at the time the expansion plans were unveiled, she had more than 100 interested groups inquiring about opening an AKT studio, which the company will begin selling to prospective franchisees in July.
The first of those new locations will bow over the summer in Newport Beach, close to the company’s new offices in Costa Mesa, Calif., which will also include a new studio design prototype that will then be rolled out to future locations.
Newport will include a 1,100-square-foot theater for classes (as compared to three separate locations in AKT’s existing doors), what Kaiser described as a “chic, intimate lobby” and the company’s proprietary flooring with buoyancy and shock absorption. Newport will also reflect a brand refresh of sorts for AKT.
“We’ve been a growing brand over the past four years and I just think we’ve grown into a much more luxury, mature experience that encompasses so much more than just a workout,” Kaiser said. “It’s retail and fashion and nutrition and lifestyle and wellness and retreat. We wanted to be able to reflect that in our imagery and in who we are. We’re much more settled in who we are as a brand now and so it’s fun to bring new energy.”
To that end, as the health and wellness space continues to surge, buoying the businesses of both activewear brands and retailers along with fitness studios and gyms, AKT has seen its own evolution as it relates to its retail spaces.
Kaiser said she expects continued growth of the merchandise assortment to stock store shelves moving forward as a result of the growth plans. She noted AKT didn’t have the scale before to be able to leverage retail partnerships that could also grow the assortment, which is already quite diverse, ranging from accessories such as gloves and hats to footwear, eveningwear and denim.
This is especially key to offer with an already captive audience that visits AKT studios currently for more than just workouts.
“Some people just come by to shop. They love the stuff, they live in the area and they know when we’re going to get new stuff in,” Kaiser said. “We’ve sold $600 winter boots and $1,100 winter jackets, to $15 T-shirts, underwear and socks. We just have a very wide selection. It really has become more of a lifestyle that reflects the community that’s supported this brand. When you feel good in your body, you want to look good as well, so it’s a good time to shop because you’ll make great decisions.”