Barre3 Looks to ‘Redefine’ Traditional Fitness Segment
Barre3 is a lifestyle brand that is looking to disrupt the traditional fitness model by combing online retailing (apparel, beauty and accessories) with brick-and-mortar studios while also “redefining” the wellness goals of its clients.
Here, cofounder and chief executive officer Sadie Lincoln explains the business model and how the company is differentiating itself in the market.
WWD: What makes Barre3 different than other studios? What is the business model?
Sadie Lincoln: We provide a full-body, balanced workout combining strength-conditioning, cardio, and mindfulness — and through this workout we are redefining what success in fitness means. For too long, fitness has been sold on external measures of success (sculpting the “perfect” body, fitting into your skinny jeans, staying below a certain number on the scale). At Barre3, we define success in fitness as feeling balanced in body and empowered from within. Success is driven by body positivity, not body shaming.
This theme of empowerment permeates our entire brand. In our workout, we empower every client to make it her own, giving her modifications to move her fitness forward. In retail, we work to empower women to make choices that matter.
This means that when we look for retail partners, we seek out brands that align with our company core values. This manifests in myriad ways — working with companies that are woman-owned, companies that use ethical practices to manufacture and distribute their products, companies that are conscious about the environment, and/or companies that include a give-back program. All of our partnerships start with an amazing product, but that’s just the beginning. Once we know the product, we also want to understand the why, the who, and the how behind the brand.
One of our favorite examples of this is our partnership with Conscious Coconut. When we first formed the partnership, Conscious Coconut was quite small — in fact, we were one of the first retailers to work with them. While their size may have been a red flag for other retailers, we committed to them early on because we were so impressed with not just their product but also their values and practices — they work directly with farmers and teams to create sustainable businesses that positively impact their communities, and for every product sold, a child is given a meal through their partnership with Feeding America Food Banks. Conscious Coconut’s commitment to giving back showed us that they were aligned with our core values, and that — not their size or age — was the determining factor in partnering with them.
By working this way, we ensure that we can stand behind every product we sell. In a fast-fashion-driven world, that makes us a rebel in the fitness retailer category.
WWD: As the business grows, what are some of the challenges and opportunities of operating a physical studio and retail space as well as an online component?
S.L.: Our number-one challenge is that we’re extremely selective in choosing products and partners for our retail collection. It’s far easier to fill the shelves if you’re not thinking consciously about what you’re filling them with. We could easily pick guaranteed top sellers and sell them like hotcakes, turning a quick profit. For us, though, there has to be a why behind every product. When we’re choosing something for our collection, we’re not just looking at it from an aesthetic or quality point of view; we’re also looking at it from a conscious-retailing point of view. We have to believe in both the product and the partner — and that partner needs to be able to provide the level of service we need to supply 150 studios.
This approach means that we say no to far more companies than we say yes to, but that’s part of what it takes to curate a collection for our clients in a conscious way. We’re committed to our values, and that creates a challenge — but it’s one that we’re more than happy to take on.
As a company, our core product is teaching remarkable classes. This poses both a challenge and an opportunity when it comes to retail. The challenge is that because the bulk of our resources go toward creating, teaching and marketing our class, we can’t dedicate all our resources to retail. The opportunity, on the other hand, is that by teaching a remarkable class, we create our own loyal customer — and because that customer, whether in-studio or online, often does Barre3 workouts regularly, we have the opportunity to showcase our retail to her several times a week.
We don’t see our studio and online retail spaces as being in competition with each other; instead, they complement each other. In the studio retail space, we’re able to show the quality of the merchandise and to tell the story of the products and the partners. But with people doing Barre3 online workouts in more than 98 countries, we have thousands of clients who don’t live anywhere near a studio. Our online retail space allows us to bring our products and their stories to everyone.
WWD: What exactly is “conscious retailing” and why is it important?
S.L.: For us, conscious retailing means choosing partners that align with our company core values. When we choose products for the B3 Shop, we look for the vendors to meet one or (preferably) more of the following: a give-back component, female-owned, sustainably and ethically made, health-conscious, and/or like-minded in core values.
For example, Dear Survivor, a company that makes gorgeous earrings and necklaces, is dedicated to helping human-traffic survivors, and all their products are handmade in San Diego. The makers of the wildly popular bracelets we sell are handmade in Nepal and come to us from Aid Through Trade, a company whose goal is to empower the lives of women through ethical, fair and sustainable employment. DYI and Beyond Yoga, our two most popular leggings brands, are both female-owned and operated, made in the U.S. and committed to promoting body positivity.
We’re always looking for new partners who align with our core values — and finding them is a process. We personally vet each and every company, building strong relationships with the owners, verifying that their workers are paid fair wages, and testing the products ourselves. We’re even beginning to personally tour the factories where the products are made.
As a company that values learning above all else, we are constantly growing and evolving our approach to conscious retailing. For example, while we put a high value on products that are made in the U.S., we also understand that products can be made elsewhere and still align with our core values. We also recognize that there is a need for a greater range of sizes within athleisure products in general, so while we currently offer sizes XS through XL, we are working with partners toward a goal of including a broader range of sizes. We’re even in discussions to move some products we love to different factories so that they better align with our core values. As we see it, the foundation of conscious retailing is being purposeful about learning as we grow in this sector.
There’s another level to conscious retailing, too: creating a collection that meets our client’s standards and values. Our client could shop anywhere; it is a privilege when she chooses to shop with us, and with that privilege comes a responsibility to give her what she’s looking for. The Barre3 client cares about how she’s spending her money. She wants quality, sustainability and value, and she wants to know who her products are made by and how and where they’re produced. It is our job to make sure that every product we sell to her both feels good on her skin and makes her feel good in her skin.
WWD: How would you describe the typical Barre3 customer?
S.L.: Our client is a high-performing female who’s educated, family-oriented, professional, athletic and fit-minded. Her “stats” are incredibly broad — she’s between 18 and 80 years old, and she lives literally all over the world. She’s defined more by a mind-set than traditional demographics. She lives consciously and with intention. She cares about being mindful, living authentically and being comfortable in her own skin. She’s conscious of what she’s feeding her family, she’s involved in her community and the environment. She has a developed aesthetic and appreciates fashion and design. As a high-performer, she’s busy and sometimes stressed. We’re always thinking of this woman when we choose products for our retail collection.
WWD: How would you describe the business culture of the company?
S.L.: We are guided by core values: Everybody Matters, Give Generously, Make It Happen, Humbly Confident, Committed to Real, and Love of Learning. Our entire company is rallied around our mission: to teach people to be balanced in body and empowered from within. We extend that theme of empowerment into everything we do. We believe in empowering not just our clients but our entire company, including our 130-plus franchise owners and their staffs, our home-office team and our retail partners.
We are proud to be a company that was created by a woman, is run by women, and serves and empowers women around the world.