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This is an “and” proposition with digital and real life fitness options: Equinox Media CEO on digital fitness

Jason LaRose, Equinox Media CEO joins the On the Move panel to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the fitness industry.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Well this year we have seen a boom in connected and digital fitness, and one of the legacy brands that has joined this even before the pandemic came is Equinox with its Equinox Media brand. Jason LaRose is the CEO of Equinox Media, and he's joining us now. You guys launched this, or this part of Equinox was launched back in 2019. But I imagine you would have seen an uptick in demand, and I know you had an uptick in offerings this year.

So talk us through the numbers, first of all. How many folks are on your app that you guys developed, which is called Variis? How many folks have bought the SoulCyles at home? How is it doing?

JASON LAROSE: Yeah, it's actually going really, really well. You know, we launched the app actually in March with the intent of slowly rolling it out to our Equinox members. But COVID has changed routines for many, so we very quickly got it out to hundreds of thousands of Equinox members during COVID, which has been great for us.

And we also started shipping SoulCycle bikes the first part of May. That's been incredible for us. We sold out of all the bikes that we had. We placed new orders. We more than doubled our forecast for the year, so that's been great. And now, you know, we're back in stock and doing a really good job. We launched financing recently and saw our sales go up another 115% week over week, so it's been a great start for us, and we're just thrilled to bring the experience to people at home.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Congratulations on the great start. I'm curious because sometimes we have entrepreneurs and CEOs who ask the same question when people have ideas. What are you offering that someone isn't already offering in this market space?

JASON LAROSE: Well, I mean let's start with the idea that this is an "and" proposition-- I think, you know, for us "and" meaning digital and in real life. As an amateur athlete, I can tell you for sure that I like my in-real-life experiences as much as I like my at-home workouts. And that's a real capability here when we partner with studios who have great in-real-life experiences but also can provide something really high quality at home. So we're really excited about what we're able to offer in that "and" space.

You know, when we went into this proposition, we had 72% of people telling us that if they had a fitness app, that fitness app was more likely to have them working out in real life, not less. And so the idea that digital is replacing physical I think is a bit of a misnomer, and during COVID I know I'm missing humans, so I'm excited to have an "and" proposition where I can go to physical spaces and see some of this great talent.

DAN HOWLEY: Jason, I want to ask, you know, there's so many options out there available to consumers as far as apps go, even free YouTube tutorials showing people how to work out specific parts of their body or different styles of exercise. How do you ensure that Equinox is able to compete with something like that?

JASON LAROSE: Well, I think it starts with the quality of the instruction. You know, these are the best brands in the world that we partner with, and if you look at both the production of the content quality is along with the quality of the instruction, I think we really have something that's going remarkably well for us. I mean, our members right now, we've got 97% satisfaction rating from people who are taking live classes with us.

We're taking the best talent that you would normally see if you're in New York or LA and bringing them onto the platform. You know, there are a lot of free content players out there, and it sometimes can be difficult to sift through them. And we take our role as a curator very seriously to bring the best brands in front of you so you know what you're getting is really great. We know people are pressed for time, and spending 15 minutes searching for something worth watching is 15 minutes that you're not working out. And that can really cut into the routine.

- Speaking about the quality of the instruction, of course, Peleton, perhaps SoulCycle's biggest threat and competitor-- they've really created a cult following, right, around many of their star instructors. How do you think about how you craft talent? How important is that today, whether it's in person, whether it's at home, to really make sure that you're investing in those sorts of, you know, je-ne-sais-quoi abilities and qualities of an instructor?

JASON LAROSE: Yeah, well I think there's no question that the talent of our brands are the stars. They have great followings. They do an incredibly good job engaging their riders, boxers, strength workout partners, all of those. You know, we just have some really, really incredible talent. And for us, this is less about, you know, building that talent in a way that hasn't been built. It's more about giving them a megaphone.

This is talent that at one point was, you know, only teaching a full studio of 50 or 60 people who now can teach to thousands of people at one time. And so it's really just giving them a platform to jump off from, to take those talents to a broader set of people. And we're certainly off to a good start and really excited about it.

JULIE HYMAN: Jason, finally, I know that you are just in charge of the media arm here, and under the umbrella of Equinox. But I am curious if you can talk to us about the strategy at Equinox-- how many resources the company is putting into the media part, especially with a lot of gyms-- if they're open, they're open to reduced capacity-- versus the physical gyms. How strategically is the company thinking about that?

JASON LAROSE: Well, look, I think this is always a company that's done an incredibly good job communicating with its members and listening to them. And so, you know, if I reflect back a year and a half or so ago, 60% of members had at least one fitness app on their phones, and they were using those to augment their in-real-life workouts.

And so we invest in that space to give them something that's as high quality in digital as what they get in the physical space. We're fortunate to have a really loyal and vocal membership group, and the partners that we bring in from a brand perspective, our people who have that same premium and member focus when they think about the feedback they give us. So, you know, we're excited to make the investment right now, and we again believe in an "and" solution, whereas our clubs continue to reopen. The in-real-life experience is complemented by what we're doing digitally and, you know, not competing with it.

JULIE HYMAN: Jason, thanks. Jason LaRose is Equinox Media CEO. Thank you.

JASON LAROSE: Thank you for having me.