Raising The Barre

by Nate Hunter

Exercise studio Pure Barre has a devout following that led to the company opening more than 50 locations across the country in 2013.

Pure Barre began franchising in 2009. Today, the company operates more than 200 stores.Pure Barre has capitalized on the nation’s recent health focus by delivering a 55-minute class that the company guarantees will show quick results. Each studio provides a total body workout that utilizes a ballet barre to perform small, isometric movements, which according to the company, burn fat, sculpt muscles and create lean physiques. Pure Barre helps create a sense of community among its customers, who on average come to class three times a week. Some customers have become franchisees themselves.

In addition to becoming a favorite among the everyday consumer, Pure Barre has also become popular among landlords since the concept attracts a highly educated consumer in areas with average household incomes of more than $75,000.

Carrie Rezabek Dorr launched the brand in 2001, and her idea grew to include 170 stores in 34 states. Dorr opened the first location in Birmingham, Mich., in her pursuit of finding one group fitness class that targeted all the problem areas that trouble women. Shortly after, she started traveling the country rapidly opening additional units.

In July 2009, Dorr began franchising the concept. From 2009 to 2012, Pure Barre expanded from 10 to 111 studios. Today, the company operates more than 200 locations.

“Carrie never had the goal of being a huge franchise, but Pure Barre just had so many clients that had fallen in love with the technique that they wanted to take the idea with them to another area,” says Molly Cashman, director of marketing for Pure Barre.

Founder Carrie Dorr sold a majority interest in the company, which is headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C., in October 2012. She still remains actively involved in the company as the chief concept officer, and focuses on innovating the exercise studio’s technique and working on the creative aspects of the company.

The chain’s clients are really what take the concept to the next level. Pure Barre develops a sense of camaraderie at each of its studios, where instructors learn individual exercise and fitness goals. Cashman says it’s more than just a workout; it’s a women’s lifestyle brand.

“Clients become hooked and see amazing results with their bodies,” she says. “They get self-proclaimed addicted to the atmosphere, the workout and the results.”

A typical Pure Barre customer is usually a female between the ages of 25 and 54 — 85 percent of the chain’s clients are women and New-Albany-DeskWEBAlong with classes, Pure Barre sells apparel, DVDs and other items.74 percent are college graduates. More than 40 percent of the company’s clients drive five or more miles to each studio, further proving it draws from a wide regional area.

Along with its classes, each store offers DVDs, equipment and exercise apparel. Each location includes an approximately 800-square-foot studio, 300 square feet of retail, and additional room for greeting and storage. Studios range in size from 1,000 to 1,800 square feet to accommodate these needs, but the sweet spot for the company is right around 1,500 square feet.

In order to fully capitalize on the wellness benefits that a ballet barre can provide, Pure Barre looks for a minimum of 17 feet of frontage. This allows each store to activate its studio space and give each customer room to effectively complete their workouts.
When the chain opened its 170th store in Huntington, N.Y., there was a waiting list for classes on the studio’s first day of operation.
“We certainly plan to be more aggressive in the next five years,” says Robin Hilliard, vice president of real estate for Pure Barre. “We don’t have a corporate target, but I don’t see us slowing down by any stretch of the imagination.”

Since the company’s clients become so passionate about the brand, they usually become franchisees interested in taking the concept to a new area with them. The company has retained seven corporate locations in its desire to keep the barre technique innovative and quickly effective.

When scouting new locations, Pure Barre looks for niche markets and smaller neighborhoods that can support the company’s goal of establishing a sense of community among its members. The San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., remain active targets for the company. Pure Barre also has eight studios in the pipeline for metro Atlanta, a big growth city for the brand due to its many suburbs.

“During the last two years the economy has improved quite a bit, so it’s been great on the aspect of franchisees and interest,” explains Hilliard. “People now have more [disposable income] to spend on niche fitness brands like us.”

Organic grocery brands, including The Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market, are complementary co-tenants for the brand because of their similar health-related focus.

“More so than the economy, helping us focus on where to expand has been shaped by the national trend of healthy living and a more healthy lifestyle,” adds Hilliard.

Because of Pure Barre’s high word-of-mouth appeal, landlords are beginning to seek the brand out because of the loyal clients the company is able to draw to its centers. With a nationwide appeal and franchisees that know the company from not only a business standpoint, but also on a personal level, Pure Barre has established itself as the largest barre franchise in the nation.
“We feel like we’re just getting started,” concludes Hilliard.


— Brittany Biddy

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