Have You Heard the Latest?

Getting Physical

Rather than going up against mom-and-pop competitors, specialty fitness franchises are looking to occupy the same space as giants like Bally's and 24-Hour Fitness. By targeting groups that either aren't satisfied with or don't feel comfortable at traditional gyms, these franchises are making their mark.

Velocity Sports Performance works with athletes of all ages to increase speed, power, agility, balance, coordination and flexibility. "Traditional fitness clubs do not market to the youth market, nor do they cater to the specific performance needs of people who play sports," says David Walmsley, CEO of Velocity.

Women-only fitness centers are finding success reaching out to women who can use the local gym but don't want to. "We've created an environment for change," says Gary Heavin, founder and CEO of Curves International Inc., which franchises Curves for Women fitness centers. "Women are comfortable exercising in a community of other women. By offering them this community, we help them acquire the habit of fitness."

That's an Improvement
With home ownership rates climbing near 70 percent in the United States and $170.1 billion spent on renovation and beautification, the home improvement industry has an impressive base of willing and able customers. And there are plenty of franchises that are out to help these customers with their home projects large and small. An entire category of companies help build decks, repair fountains and consult homeowners on construction projects, and handymen are out there performing small tasks such as carpentry, general repairs, painting, wall-papering and more.

New on the Block
While established franchises work to stay on top of the trends, new franchises are also arriving, sometimes sparking trends of their own. Topz Restaurant is satisfying the cravings of health-conscious fast-food junkies by selling lean burgers and burger alternatives like chicken, turkey and veggie burgers. Pawsenclaws & Co. lets customers create a stuffed animal that's completely unique from head to toe, including wardrobe. V2K, The Virtual Window Fashion Store Inc., offers customers in-home window treatment sales and installations, using proprietary software to draw to-scale recreations of a room and fill in a variety of window fashion choices. With all these franchises exploring new ideas and niches and tapping into changing demographics and technology, 2003 has all the potential to be an outstanding year for franchising.

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This article was originally published in the January 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Have You Heard the Latest?.

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