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Copyright 2013 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
September 4, 2013 Wednesday
583 words
Snap Fitness expands approach

Snap Fitness' deal for boutique outfit Steele aims to deliver more personal and small-group training.

Chanhassen-based Snap Fitness on Tuesday acquired Steele Fitness, a Twin Cities fitness boutique with an emphasis on health and wellness in its training regimen.

The deal, terms of which were not revealed, provides Snap with the potential tools to enhance its personal-trainer profile in a competitive environment where consumer demand is growing for one-on-one or small-group interaction with fitness coaches.

"The concierge personal-training concept is a big part of the health-and-wellness industry," said Peter Taunton, the founder and CEO of privately held Snap Fitness. "It's about eating sensibly and moving your feet."

In the United States, more than 6 million people use a personal trainer, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. But room for growth in those numbers is considerable. The association said more than 50 million Americans belonged to a health club last year, suggesting that 44 million members didn't use a personal trainer.

Steele Fitness is just seven years old, with locations in Wayzata, Excelsior, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Edina, and has about 80 employees. Founder Steele Smiley will join Snap Fitness and will oversee the integration of the Steele Fitness training concept into the Snap Fitness operation.

Taunton said the Steele Fitness program, which involves intense nutritional and lifestyle elements, will roll out in the six corporate-owned Snap Fitness locations in the Twin Cities as well as the 70 franchise-owned locations in the metro area. That will begin next month.

Plans are to introduce the Steele Fitness concept in the other 1,400 Snap Fitness locations in larger markets beginning in 2014. In addition, Snap Fitness will open "flagship" Steele clubs in larger markets

and feature Under Armour apparel boutiques.

Snap Fitness had revenue of $70 million last year with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $21 million, a figure that has been growing at a 20 percent annual clip. Snap Fitness has been adding new franchises at rate of 15 to 20 clubs a month. Steele Fitness does not disclose revenue.

"It comes as no surprise that Snap Fitness is beefing up its personal-training business," said Meredith Poppler, a spokeswoman for the IHRSA. "Personal training is big business in the health-club industry."

Making fees uniform

For Smiley, Snap Fitness will give his fitness and wellness philosophy instant heft.

An All-America swimmer in college, Smiley has been in the fitness business since 2002 when he went to clients' homes to provide physical training. He opened his first fitness center in 2006 in Excelsior. All five will remain open under the new arrangement with Snap Fitness.

Smiley called Taunton "the most successful fitness entrepreneur on the planet."

Personal-training services are not cheap, but packages can be designed to make it more affordable. Steele Fitness charges $60 to $90 an hour for personal attention but as little as $20 an hour for group sessions.

A pricing schedule for Snap Fitness still is being worked out. The current cost of a personal trainer at Snap clubs varies by club. The new price plan is expected to be more uniform.

Poppler said the industry average is $50 an hour.

"Training has specifically increased in popularity and usage due to an increase in more affordable training and training formats," Poppler said.

"We never want to exclude anyone," Smiley said. "Wellness should not be limited to the top 1 percent [of the population]."

David Phelps · 612-673-7269

September 4, 2013

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