- Physique 57’s barre-focused studio workout is beloved by celebrities.
- The company had been in the on-demand video space for nearly a decade before the pandemic hit.
- Now its CEO says the company is doubling down on digital as it looks to a post-pandemic future.
Physique 57 CEO Jennifer Maanavi has long known the benefits of giving Americans the option of working out from home.
The boutique fitness company got its start in 2006 and first forayed into the realm of at-home exercise in 2009, when the company launched its DVD series. Taking a cue from the success of the popular VHS workout tapes of the 1980s and 1990s like Tae Bo and Jane Fonda’s Lean Routine, Physique 57 began selling instructionals for its barre workouts not just in its studios and online, but also at major retailers like Lululemon.
By 2012, as DVDs made way to streaming, Physique 57 leveled up to online video on-demand as a means to compliment its popular classes, which over the years have developed a celebrity following including the likes of Chrissy Teigen, Erin Andrews, Emmy Rossum, and Demi Moore.
“It was definitely early, but luckily we had a great program with over 350 videos well before the pandemic hit,” Maanavi told Insider about her company’s switch to streaming nearly a decade ago. “We were able to really pivot to on-demand quickly, and so now the business is really mostly digital.”
During the pandemic, Maanavi said Physique 57 temporarily shuttered its studios, laying off a total of 95 employees, and pausing the opening of locations in Brooklyn, Long Island, and Philadelphia that were in progress.
Still, brick-and-mortar is not something Maanavi is giving up on completely, but rather a segment of the business she intends to “rebuild over time.” Physique 57 currently independently operates 12 studios across the US, India, Dubai, and Thailand. It also runs an international franchise and licensing business.
Maanavi said doubling down on digital in 2020 largely involved redirecting funds to strategic hires and social media efforts.
“We put more resources into our social media presence,” she said. “We put more effort into our digital marketing agency. We brought on someone to handle SEO. We brought on people for blog writing. We really had to create a much better focused digital business.”
Focusing on virtual fitness also allowed Physique 57 to experiment with different pricing models in an effort to reach more users. According to Maanavi, while an in-person class at the studio costs $38, its monthly subscription costs $24.99 a month, part of a larger push to reach more users. Members can also opt to pay $249.99 for an annual digital membership. (The company declined to share recent sales or financial information.)
Like many of her fitness peers, Maanavi said she anticipates a post-pandemic future that accommodates both physical and in-person exercise, even as plans of opening new Physique 57 locations remain on the back burner, citing that the hybrid model is better suited for today’s modern consumer.
“For the consumer, it’s great news because you realize that you can access fitness in so many different ways,” she said. “For companies expecting to get back to their pre-pandemic revenue in 2021 or even 2022, I don’t think it’s all going to come from studio.”