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In late 2009, Equinox, which has over 90 luxury fitness clubs in the US, UK, and Canada, started offering Kiehl’s products in its locker rooms instead of the watery generic white lotion you find in some gyms. After introducing the products, the number of people showering at the gym allegedly went up by 30 percent. There was urban lore that so many people were stealing the products that the gym had to lock them to the wall. (People still apparently sneak their own bottles in to fill up.)
Free, high-end beauty products are an attractive amenity, as every Aesop-stocking hotel and restaurant understands. Now, more fitness studios than ever are upping the ante on what they provide in their locker rooms.
SoulCycle, one of the hottest fitness studios in the country, just announced it will be stocking exclusive products from buzzy fragrance brand Le Labo, best known for its fashion-insider-favorite, Santal 33. Beginning on December 8th, Le Labo will provide shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, body lotion, and hand soap to all of SoulCycle’s 80+ studios, though not every studio will get it right away. Not only can riders dress like a tribe, but they can now smell the same, too.
The fragrance, called Bergamote 22, currently exists in Le Labo’s lineup, but the brand says the SoulCycle version is a “fresh, new take on the scent,” and the body and cleansing products are totally new. It has a warm, musky, citrus smell that isn’t overpowering. While the full-size products won’t be available to buy anywhere, a travel kit of the products will be available in studios for $76. (A full-size Le Labo body lotion costs $68, so this is definitely a luxury proposition.) Previously, SoulCycle had offered drugstore brands, like Clean & Clear face wash, as amenities.
“We’ve spent several years searching for the perfect amenities partner to match the experience that our riders have on the bike with the ones they have before and after,” writes Gabby Cohen, senior vice president of public relations and brand strategy at SoulCycle, in an email.
Last month, Barry’s Bootcamp started stocking Oribe hair and body products in huge one-liter bottles in the locker rooms, after several years of partnering with minimalist brand Malin + Goetz. Oribe is one of the most expensive haircare brands on the market, with liter bottles of shampoo costing about $140. Barry’s clients will have access to shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand wash (exclusive to Barry’s), and body cream, all in the brand’s Cote D’Azur scent. As of now, Barry’s isn’t selling the products at all.
For the gyms, this is a value-add situation, not to mention: Who wants to lug around shampoo with their cycling shoes? Barry’s and SoulCycle each cost more that $30 for a single class, so they want their amenities to match both the price point and the experience. “Like SoulCycle, Le Labo is dedicated to delivering a lifestyle rather than a service to its community of loyal fans. Together, we’re able to provide a powerful mind-body experience that stays with you throughout the day,” says Cohen. “Our riders often tell us that SoulCycle is the best part of their day, so we want to ensure that we are providing the highest level of care and attention at all of our studios, and that includes the post-ride routine.”
For Barry’s, it was a matter of taking their amenities to the next level. “What we do as a brand is always try to figure out ways to up the ante, because we know this is the best workout in the world,” says Vicky Land, the vice president of communications and brand at Barry’s. “So if that’s the best for your body, what’s the best for your hair and cosmetic-wise?” Land describes Oribe as “pushing boundaries,” much like Barry’s sometimes nausea-inducing workout.
Equinox originally provided Kiehl’s products because it wanted to “elevate” the client experience. At the time the two launched the partnership, the country was in the throes of the economic crisis. “Many people and brands were cutting back on their luxury expenses. However, our members were still committed to investing in living a healthy lifestyle and we wanted to offer them more with an additional luxury experience,” Carla Dunham, the vice president of marketing at Equinox, writes in an email. It was a form of self-care, before that was really a word that was used a lot, for people who can afford upwards of $200 per month for a gym membership. “This was a way to reassure our members that we appreciate their business and can serve as more than just a fitness offering, but rather a safe haven for them to escape the craziness of their day-to-day.”
In the first three months, Equinox went through a good chunk of product that it had ordered to last a full year, a problem Kiehl’s was happy to have. Megan Grant, the president of Kiehl’s USA, also confirms that Equinox clients were perhaps a little too enthusiastic about their new amenities. “We even had to redesign our initial bulk packaging and fixtures because the containers in the locker rooms kept being taken. We certainly don’t encourage our customers to get their Kiehl’s that way, but it’s a flattering testament to how loyal Kiehl’s customers are!”
While none of the brands mentioned this, there’s an obvious aesthetic appeal, too. Oribe’s black, white, and golden bottles perfectly match the Barry’s color scheme. Ditto with minimalist white Kiehl’s bottles and Equinox. Flywheel, another cycling studio with locations throughout the US and in Dubai, had been a perfect partner for Bliss, at least as it relates to their shared blue-and-aqua coloring. (A representative for Bliss says that it will not be continuing its partnership with Flywheel in 2018, though, so apparently being matchy-matchy isn’t enough.)
For brands, selling products to places where people take showers every day is good for their businesses, since the products literally go down the drain and need to be replenished. While none of the brands or studios shared any sales numbers, a 2009 Crain’s article noted that the retail value of the Kiehl’s products the first year at Equinox was $10 million, a number which is likely much larger now because Equinox had doubled the number of its clubs since then and also sells the products in its shops for members to buy.
It’s also great for people who might not know about a brand to get an intimate experience with it, and maybe go out and buy it for their own bathrooms. Grant notes that she hopes to make newer Kiehl’s launches available to Equinox clients in addition to the classic favorites like Creme de Corps. Oribe acknowledges that this is a core of its marketing strategy. “We are excited to reach new customers of both sexes on a global scale through this partnership,” Caitlin Gaffey, the vice president of marketing at Oribe, writes in an email.
For a tiny indie brand, being in a hot studio’s locker room can make all the difference. Beekman 1802, which is based on a goat farm in upstate New York, stocks the hand wash, lotion, shampoo, and conditioner at Rumble, a boxing gym that opened last year in New York City. It has two locations currently, with eight to nine more opening in the next two years, including in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Justin Bieber and a David Beckham father-son duo have worked out there.
Brent Ridge, a Beekman co-founder, knows the power of amenity marketing. “It’s great for brands because it’s a sampling program. Similar to hotel amenities, it builds awareness,” he says. The brand provides amenities to Andaz hotels and gets orders frequently from as far away as Japan from people who discover the products while on vacation; it’s already seen interest from Rumble customers.
Noah Neiman, a founding partner and founding trainer at Rumble, just wants to surprise and delight clients. “There are certain gyms that ride the bandwagon — they find the one premium product that’s in every gym that I’ve ever been into. I wanted to be unique,” he says. “We’re going to seek out that niche brand that no one really knows about that’s super premium and super quality and enlighten the consumer.” Neiman, who was formerly a trainer at Barry’s, called out Malin + Goetz and Aesop as brands he likes but ultimately sees everywhere. (He’s not wrong: In the promotional materials for the new WeWork wellness space, Rise by We, Malin + Goetz is touted as the beauty amenity.) Rumble’s locker rooms also feature Nubian Heritage’s African Black Soap acne-fighting facial products.
To Ridge, it just makes sense to have good products at gyms. “That’s got to be the second-most popular place to shower. Why would you spend so much on your skincare at home and then... ?” Ridge asks, trailing off and shaking his head.
Or possibly the experience at these gyms is even better than the clients’ real lives. According to Equinox’s Dunham, “In some cases, members have expressed that they prefer to shower at Equinox rather than at their own apartment.”
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