by Matt Weik
I recently heard the news that The Vitamin Shoppe and LA Fitness have joined forces and that to kick off their new partnership, Vitamin Shoppe has moved inside a total of nine LA Fitness locations throughout New Jersey, New York, and Florida. This is an extremely interesting move by both parties and one that I think we should take a look at as I feel there’s a huge opportunity for other businesses to copy this very model (if they haven’t already).
Space for Rent? Shut Up and Take My Money
Going back to my sales rep days, I used to travel to a different state every week when I working for MET-Rx. It was a fun position as I got to meet a ton of great people, see a ton of amazing gyms, and become a kid again as I roam around gigantic supplement stores. One thing that always struck me as an “ah-ha” moment was when I’d walk into a gym and find a supplement store leasing out space to sell products in their very own brick and mortar location. To me, this was simply pure genius.
Let’s think about this for just one minute. The people who are going to the gym are generally the same people going online or to other B&M locations to buy supplements, right? So, it only makes sense to put a physical store somewhere that the consumers are already going. Look at the mass market and grocery channel these days. Supplements are popping up left and right because they are getting the products in front of where the consumers shop each week. Therefore, the gym is no different when you think about it.
Need a pre-workout RTD? No problem. Need a post-workout protein shake? No problem. Need a protein bar to eat before your workout since you skipped lunch today? No problem. See where I’m going with this? Rather than having the consumer go elsewhere if they’re already going to the gym, why not service them there?
Now, I don’t know how the deal was structured between The Vitamin Shoppe and LA Fitness, but it needs to benefit both businesses to have it work. And if you own a supplement store, you may want to take a page from The Vitamin Shoppe and start talking with your local gyms in the area to see if you can work a deal.
Sure, we see juice bars in many gyms today, but I see that as a great first step to providing all the services and amenities a gym would need to truly “own” a member. You want the gym to be a one-stop-shop for everything that active members would want or need. Don’t make them drive somewhere else to get what they need.
Will This Catch On?
Honestly, I think it’s already here and many companies have already structured similar deals – you just don’t hear about them because they aren’t as big as The Vitamin Shoppe.
That being said, I think if anyone needed this type of partnership, it was The Vitamin Shoppe. If you look at GNC, they have teamed up with Rite Aid and have their own wellness section in many locations that has everything from vitamins and minerals, to RTD beverages, to protein and nutrition bars, to pill, powders, and capsules. While this too may have been a good play for GNC, think about how many people go into a Rite Aid versus a gym. Sure, they have great foot traffic at Rite Aid, but you mainly think of Rite Aid as a pharmacy or a place you go when you need something in a pinch. I don’t see many people who need to purchase supplements saying, “I need to drive to my nearest Rite Aid and pick up some more protein powder.”
Now, yes, if you don’t have any supplement stores around, I can see running to a Rite Aid may be your best bet. But I would imagine more people would simply be shopping online and bypassing Rite Aid altogether.
That same thought could be said about the LA Fitness and Vitamin Shoppe deal, but I see this being a totally different animal. People are going to the gym to exercise. The supplements at the gym can be utilized for the actual workout or can be purchased to replenish what the consumer had at home. It’s a matter of convenience. The same can’t be said about the GNC and Rite Aid partnership. It models gas stations. People go to a gas station for… well, gas. But while there they may pick up a beverage, some food, or a pack of gum out of convenience.
Straight from the Horse’s Mouth
According to the article I read, Sharon Leite (CEO of The Vitamin Shoppe) mentioned the supplement retailer meets the “wellness goals and need states of the LA Fitness membership.” She’s correct. And The Vitamin Shoppe needs to do a better job of bringing back its customers as over the years they have seen their sales with sports nutrition take a nosedive under the previous CEO.
Sharon was also quoted saying, “We are thrilled to bring The Vitamin Shoppe experience directly into LA Fitness locations. These shops provide the health-conscious members of LA Fitness easy access to their favorite sports nutrition and supplement products, as well as the exceptional expertise and guidance of our Health Enthusiasts. This initiative represents an innovative new channel of distribution for The Vitamin Shoppe with great potential for growth and we look forward to a productive partnership with LA Fitness.”
How will this partnership pan out? Only time will tell but if they can stock products in their gym locations that meet the wants and needs of the gym members, I feel they can be extremely profitable.
If a supplement retailer was in your gym, would you buy from them and support their business versus going to another location or even shopping online?