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People returning to fitness studios 'in droves': SoulCycle CEO

·Writer
·3 min read

Riders are quickly returning to SoulCycle‘s fitness studios, SoulCycle CEO Evelyn Webster told Yahoo Finance Live, as cities like New York begin lifting most COVID-19 restrictions, citing vaccination rate milestones.

“The brilliant thing about SoulCycle is [that] the community is our superpower,” Webster said. “So [riders] have really missed being with each other. So fortunately, as we've been opening up studio after studio, we've been celebrating and welcoming our riders back with us. And thank goodness, they are coming back in droves which has been great.”

Webster, who took over as CEO of SoulCycle last December, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the indoor cycling market as reopening efforts for many cities around the country are well underway as well as competition in the fitness space and the future of the company. SoulCycle, owned by the Equinox Group, offers indoor cycling fitness classes and is headquartered in New York City. Founded in 2006, it maintains operations in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Fitness was one of the hardest-hit industries throughout the pandemic, but business reopenings and lifted restrictions on social distancing, gathering limitations, and masking requirements are setting the stage for a comeback, especially in major metropolitan areas. Webster stated that there is a “pent-up demand” for riders to have human contact and get back into the studios.

“As we've been opening up, we've been really thrilled with the level of ridership,” Webster said. “Of course, different studios have been active throughout the pandemic. We have had outdoor activations. So we've had an opportunity to really keep our community active throughout. But now, we've got over 50% of our studios open. We are thrilled with the ridership and riders just re-engaging with us—some for the first time in 15 months.”

'Outdoor will remain an important part of our business'

The pandemic also forced the fitness industry to adapt to restrictions and changing consumer tastes. According to Webster, SoulCycle transitioned to outside classes during the pandemic—a significant change from the dark, candlelit experience its studios were previously known for.

“And we also launched the at-home bike,” Webster added. “So you can get Soul at home on the Equinox+ platform. I think as we come back, outdoor will remain an important part of our business. I mean, it has proved to be phenomenally successful for us.”

Looking forward, she said that riders are going to be looking for a “blended fitness experience.” Webster said that SoulCycle is placing an emphasis on giving its riders the option to exercise wherever they want, be it outdoors, indoors, or at home, while also ensuring that they feel comfortable and safe amongst other riders.

As for competition in the fitness space, with exercise equipment and media company Peloton (PTON) being another major player in the area, Webster said that SoulCycle will be focusing on bringing their trademark fitness experience into the homes of riders.

“Continuing to translate the Soul experience digitally clearly is going to be a big part of our ongoing focus and having theme rides and linking to music, which is such a big part of SoulCycle because we ride to the beat of the music,” Webster said.

A fitness instructor leads a SoulCycle class at their Union Square location in New York, April 13, 2011. Indoor cyclists routinely sweat a real river pedaling down an imaginary road, but SoulCycle classes add upper body work, and a touch of the spiritual, to their metaphorical journey. Picture taken April 13. To match Reuters Life! FITNESS-SOULCYCLE/         
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton   (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY)
A fitness instructor leads a SoulCycle class at their Union Square location in New York, April 13, 2011. Indoor cyclists routinely sweat a real river pedaling down an imaginary road, but SoulCycle classes add upper body work, and a touch of the spiritual, to their metaphorical journey. Picture taken April 13. To match Reuters Life! FITNESS-SOULCYCLE/ REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY)

Thomas Hum is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @thomashumTV

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