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    Three lessons for fitness from a retail giant - Blog.

    The latest news, videos and workouts from the Escape Fitness Team.

    Three lessons for fitness from a retail giant

    Something big is happening in retail. Online giant Amazon is swimming against the tide by opening dozens of ‘bricks and mortar’ stores across the USA. Consumers love them: one online reviewer praised Amazon for “nailing what it takes to have a successful retail store in an e-commerce world”.

    But, how has Amazon Books become such a hit in a world where online sales rule? And what are the lessons that club operators can take from this unexpected development?

    It’s time to look beyond the world of fitness for vital lessons in understanding customers, members and audiences to better suit their needs. With hundreds of thousands of new starters searching for “gyms near me” what will entice them to yours?


    After opening the first Amazon Books store in Seattle, Washington, the company now has eight locations across the US, with hundreds of more stores rumoured to be in the pipeline. So, let’s take a look at three factors which are helping to drive the success of Amazon Books.

    1 – Location, location, location

    Amazon clearly get the fact that location is incredibly important in a retail setting. They know that the difference between selecting the wrong location and the right one could be the difference between success and failure. Factors like accessibility, how busy the area is, the local demographic profile, the level of competition and lease costs all matter.

    Amazon have worked hard to understand all of this to they target the right people at the right place. They started out by strategically plotting their 12 bookstores in popular locations around the USA. LA’s hotspot, Westfield Century City for example harbours trendy retailers such as Geary’s Rolex Boutique, Tiffany & Co. and Abercrombie & Fitch. They are creating a sense of prestige, not to mention great exposure from passers-by. If this success has anything to go by, future stores like the one in New York’s Broadway Plaza will be a huge hit.

    What does this mean for fitness?

    Boutiques are great at choosing great locations, and using them as selling points. A great example is set in one of London’s most fashionable areas: Another Space is a superb fitness destination in London’s hot spot Covent Garden, ideally placed among its ideal target market of young Londoners with disposable income.

    What’s interesting is that retail space hasn’t traditionally been used for health clubs and gyms. One of the reasons this is changing is that boutiques typically have a small footprint, making rent much lower than larger clubs.

    Affordable lease costs are helping too. In many cities rents are being slashed as high streets and downtown areas fight to compete with online retailers. Lower rents in high profile locations creates opportunities for clubs to move into space that previously was out of reach.

    2 – Build a community

    Amazon are also buying into the way that shoppers are looking for social interaction. As with many hobbies and interests, reading is something that can be a shared experience – and we know that people love getting together with others who have similar passions. It’s actually a great way to relieve stress.

    People and millennials in particular often value experiences over ‘stuff’. Amazon Books certainly deliver an experience. By providing coffee shops, kids’ soft play areas and comfy reading zones within their bookstores, Amazon has effectively created havens for book lovers. Consumers visit the store to spend a relaxing afternoon immersed in one of their favourite novels.

    There are countless reviews which back this up. One happy online reviewer who visited one of the Massachusetts stores commented: “This store is like a gift… it has all the good books I found online. Furthermore, there’s a Pete’s Coffee Shop inside with tables and sofas – it’s a heavenly place to get lost.”

    What does this mean for fitness?

    Fitness facilities are also creating social communities for members. There’s nothing better than being a member or user of a club with team spirit, where there’s a social experience shared with friends and like-minded people. The social experience is being created by group workouts in the gym, running clubs taking to the streets, and by communal facilities such as smoothie bars, spas and chill out zones.

    But clubs need to keep innovating. The novelty of the ‘in-gym’ smoothie bar will wear off at some point. One of the reasons that boutiques are successful is the way they offer something new; but what’s new today, will be old a few months or years from now. To keep meeting your members’ needs for a social destination you need to keep reinventing the experience.

    3 – Getting more from metrics

    Amazon are the masters at using data. Their online kingdom is built around capturing customer data and using it to target offers tailored for individual tastes. This is how they have created brilliant online consumer experiences.

    This use of data is a big feature of Amazon Books’ bricks and mortar presence too. They are able to take data from online customers in a location, and can then predict which books will be popular in each area. This enables them to narrow down the product range to store visitors, only stocking products they know their customers will want.

    Data is therefore helping Amazon to do great work with segmentation and customer profiling. For residents in each location, it means their Amazon Books store is perfect for their needs. It’s targeting at its very best.

    What does this mean for fitness?

    Clubs also have lots of data available. They know which classes each member has attended. They can track comments, likes and dislikes on their social media platforms. All of this data can be analysed and used to create experiences perfectly targeted at your users. Just as Amazon Books stock titles they know their customers will like, clubs can develop classes their members will love.

    But you can go further, using data to then promote experiences to the right people. So a boutique gym might promote a yoga class aimed at women aged between 18 and 30 through social media targeting. It’s a no-brainer. Why waste time and marketing efforts targeting a mass audience?

    Marriott Hotels go even further. Their really cool ‘Six Degrees’ app is used to connect guests during their stay. By pulling data from their social media accounts, the app creates a profile based on their professional background and personal interests. A public display in the hotel lobby shows information about guests using Six Degrees at the hotel, as well as upcoming events. All guests need to do is download the app and voila! They have a 6am running partner!


    Amazon have been bold by bucking the trend for online retail by bringing back bookstores to local communities. It’s a lesson for all of us: people want real face-to-face experiences, and nothing does that better than fitness. By seizing the opportunity to move into great locations, developing brilliant community experiences and taking advantage of technology, club operators can be just as successful as Amazon in bringing today’s consumer fantastic experiences. 


    If you’re looking for a way to stand out from the crowd talk to us today. With innovative product offerings, fun group training and unique design, Escape can help you develop and maintain an industry leading position.

    Get in touch today: [email protected]

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