by Matt Weik
I recently received news that The Vitamin Shoppe and LA Fitness have merged and that Vitamin Shoppe has moved to a total of nine LA Fitness locations in New Jersey, New York and Florida to launch their new partnership. This is an extremely interesting move by both parties and I think we should take a look at it as I believe there is a huge opportunity for other companies to copy this model (if it hasn't already).
Space for rent? Be calm and take my money
When I returned to my seller days, I traveled to a different country every week when I worked for MET-Rx. It was a fun position when I met a lot of great people, saw a lot of great gyms, and became a kid again when I was roaming huge supplement stores. One thing that always struck me as "ah-ha" was when I went to a gym and found an additional store that rented space to sell products in its own store. For me it was just a genius.
Let's just think about it for a minute. The people who go to the gym are generally the same people who go online or to other B&M locations to buy supplements, right? So it only makes sense to move a physical store to a place where consumers are already going. Check out the mass market and food channel these days. Supplements appear on the left and right because they bring the products to consumer stores every week. Therefore, the gym is no different when you think about it.
Do you need an RTD before training? No problem. Do you need a protein shake after training? No problem. Do you need a protein bar to eat before exercise because you skipped lunch today? No problem. Do you see where I'm going with this? Instead of sending the consumer to another location when they are already going to the gym, you can serve them there.
Now I don't know how the deal between The Vitamin Shoppe and LA Fitness was structured, but it must benefit both companies for it to work. And if you own a supplement store, be sure to check out The Vitamin Shoppe page and speak to your local gyms in the area to see if you can make a deal.
Sure, we see juice bars in many gyms today, but I see this as a great first step in providing all of the services and amenities a gym would need to really "own" a member. You want the gym to be a one stop shop for everything active members want or need. Don't let them go anywhere else to get what they need.
Will it work?
Honestly, I think it's already there and many companies have already structured similar offerings – you just don't hear about them because they're not as big as The Vitamin Shoppe.
That being said, if anyone needed that kind of partnership, I think it was The Vitamin Shoppe. If you look at GNC, you have teamed up with Rite Aid and in many places they have their own wellness area, which includes everything from vitamins and minerals to RTD drinks, protein and food bars, pills, powders and capsules. This may also have been a good game for GNC, but consider how many people go into a rite aid and how many go to a gym. Sure, there is a lot of pedestrian traffic at Rite Aid, but at Rite Aid you mainly think of a pharmacy or a place to go when you need something. I don't see many people buying supplements who say, "I have to go to my next Rite Aid and pick up a little more protein powder."
Yes, if you don't have any supplement stores nearby, I can see that running to a Rite Aid is your best choice. But I would imagine that more people would simply shop online and completely bypass Rite Aid.
The same thought could be said about the LA Fitness and Vitamin Shoppe deal, but I see this as a completely different animal. People go to the gym to exercise. The gym supplements can be used for the actual workout or purchased to replenish what the consumer had at home. It's a matter of convenience. The same does not apply to the partnership between GNC and Rite Aid. It models gas stations. People go to a gas station to … well, gasoline. But while they're there, they can take a drink, some food, or a pack of gum for convenience.
Straight from the horse's mouth
According to the article I read, Sharon Leite (CEO of The Vitamin Shoppe) mentioned that the dietary supplement retailer met the "wellness goals and needs of LA Fitness membership." She is right. And The Vitamin Shoppe needs to bring its customers back better as they have plunged their sports nutrition sales under the previous CEO over the years.
Sharon was also quoted as saying, “We are excited to incorporate The Vitamin Shoppe's experience directly into LA fitness facilities. These stores provide health-conscious members of LA Fitness with 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 sales channel for The Vitamin Shoppe with great growth potential and we look forward to a productive partnership with LA Fitness. "
How will this partnership develop? Only time will tell, but if they can store products in their gyms that meet the wishes and needs of the gym members, they are extremely profitable in my opinion.
If a dietary supplement retailer were in your gym, would you shop with them and support their business instead of going to another location or even shopping online? Let us know in the comments.