SPECIALTY MARKETS: Bowcutt on Children

By concentrating on one key demographic, some clubs differentiate themselves from the fierce competition that a consolidating market creates.

Florida is the fifth largest fitness market in the country, according to Steven Bowcutt, owner of The Kidz Club in Sunrise. In his area alone, clubs bearing the names of major chains are on all sides of him.

While these chains may offer children's programming, they don't dedicate their entire facilities to youngsters. The Kidz Club does, and it makes a difference. "We are a freestanding children's fitness facility," Bowcutt says. "You don't have to walk by a bodybuilder or go in locker rooms with adults."

Still, The Kidz Club isn't the only game in town when it comes to children's programming. My Gym, a franchisor with roots in California, boasts three locations within a 15-mile radius of The Kidz Club. However, My Gym focuses on gymnastics for kids, while The Kidz Club concentrates on fitness programming. If The Kidz Club were just a gymnastics studio, it could never compete with My Gym. "We would starve," Bowcutt says.

Since The Kidz Club can't afford to do the advertising of the franchise chain, it must rely on differentiation to generate buzz. Serving children from 6 months to 13 years old, The Kidz Club offers a circuit of strength equipment; rock climbing; court sports; obstacle courses; and exercise classes that take familiar aerobic activities and scale them down to kids' size. The club also takes pride in its staff and spotless interior. "You walk into the facility and you smell the cleanliness," Bowcutt claims.

And plenty of people have walked into his club-including representatives from chains that want to license The Kidz Club concept for their facilities, according to Bowcutt. It's a concept with longevity, he believes. He points out that fast food, computers and televisions aren't going away, so neither is the need for children's fitness. "It's in its infancy," he says.

No pun intended.