Upscale Element Hits Florida


MANHATTAN — When you're in the business of branding, nothing's better to brand than an upscale product.

Chris Palumbo, brand strategist for upscale women-only fitness chain Elements, can tell you that. His background is in brand development at World Gym and Crunch.

One of the first things one must do when branding is set oneself apart from the rest so Palumbo is quick to point out that his facilities are not to be confused with other women-only circuit facilities.

“It's suppose to look like a women's fitness magazine,” Palumbo said of Elements, which is headquartered in New York but has a licensing facility in Miami where all of the company-owned clubs are currently located. “We use a lot of the same verbiage that they use. ‘Lose 5, 10, 15 pounds!’ We use that in our marketing to get them excited about it. ‘Cellulite busters!’ The magazines have a way to get them excited. We are trying to add some more of the style and sizzle back into it like the magazines have.”

A typical Elements club is about 2,000 square feet with a stylish boutique feel, a lifestyle consultation room for diet assessment and a circuit workout area. The equipment offers Smart card technology that helps the member remember previous workouts and that can be preprogrammed to tell her how to work out each day.

“The important part of our workouts is that they are structured,” said Palumbo. “A lot of women didn't know what to do when they came into a club.”

Elements also has 5,000-square-foot clubs with the same stylish boutique feel, but they offer 30-35 minute classes in stretching/relaxation/yoga and cardio workouts in addition to the circuit workout and the consultation rooms.

Originally, Palumbo had planned to acquire a large chain and do the Elements concept as a sub-brand of that. Instead, he decided to launch Elements a year and a half ago and develop some company-owned clubs and license out to other clubs. The company currently owns five clubs in Miami and is developing three more. In the first year, the club plans to have 20 company owned clubs and no more than 30 licensed clubs.

“What we'd like to see is someone with a 5,000-square-foot club and then 2,000-square-foot satellite clubs around that,” said Palumbo.

He is also interested in club owners who may own larger facilities but who want to open smaller facilities around the larger one, using them as feeders for the larger club.

Palumbo wants all the licensed clubs to be outside of Miami and in a market in which corporate facilities are not planned.

While the clubs have an upscale feel, the membership pricing is moderate, going for $39 a month and no sign up fee at the corporate facilities. Licensees can set their own membership prices and charge a sign up fee if they want. This pricing and the look of the clubs have reached a wide age range of women from college aged to 65, said Palumbo.

Membership varies from about 500 to 700 at the smaller clubs and 3,000 to 4,000 at the larger clubs. Usage rates are about 30 percent, he said. Some of the members come in just to use the diet facilities and never use the workout facilities, he said.

The lifestyle consultations do not include sessions with a registered dietician. Instead, lifestyle consultants show the member a common sense approach to eating and ask the members to keep a food log. Members can also purchase a session at the grocery store with the lifestyle consultant, who shows the member how to pick out healthier food while shopping.

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