Boutique Health & Wellness: The Birth and Expansion of Stretch Zone
As the population ages and becomes more health-conscious, a new retail category is emerging — specialty storefront wellness. We’ll cover other multi-location brands in high-growth industries and category creators in the months ahead.
Wellness is a $450B category and is rapidly accelerating. Multi-location retailers are picking up on that and launching products and brands that help us live longer and feel better.
Runners usually stretch before they pick up speed. Stretching has also long been part of physical therapy.
Stretch Zone founder Jorden Gold decided to bring assisted stretching to the masses after his grandfather lost mobility due to diabetes. Stretching appeared to be the silver bullet, and Gold’s beloved “Pop-Pop” ultimately graduated from a walker to the dance floor. But assisted stretching has now taken hold for all ages and activity levels.
Founded in 2004, the Stretch Zone franchise opened its first storefront in 2017 and now has approximately 300 locations and continues to expand, and the company’s gross revenue has grown a whopping 52 percent year-over-year. It is reportedly the largest stretching franchise in the U.S., and national and regional competitors are emerging.
Like many concepts that have been recently created, Stretch Zone incorporated technology from its inception. The company invested in awareness-building and search by utilizing SOCI for local search optimization. Digital marketing is a big component of its advertising mix. The Stretch Zone app enables consumers to easily book appointments. Creating a new category requires an extra level of consumer education. “The cheese is always moving,” says Lindsey McFadden, the company’s Marketing VP.
Stretch Zone has three corporate stores, but the rest are franchised, and many operators own multiple locations. An average of two new stores open each week. Remarkably, no stores have closed to date.
Taking a mere eight weeks from signing to build-out, the Stretch Zone concept was designed to be a relatively simple franchise concept for investors. As in many franchises, corporate supports the local operators with a wide range of approved vendors.
The locations use a proprietary combination of tables and straps, and athletes have endorsed the brand, encouraging franchisees and consumers to engage in local charities via its GivZone program. NFL player Drew Brees has signed on as a franchisee, joining the many celebrities investing in retail and restaurant opportunities.
Especially as we spend more time at desks and in front of screens, stretching becomes increasingly vital to health and well-being. Scientific studies (and Pop-Pop) may prove its many benefits, including increasing your body’s serotonin levels. That hormone stabilizes moods and reduces stress.
As consumers become more aware of the many benefits of the habit, “stretching near me” is likely to become a more common search phrase.
Lessons learned from the StretchZone launch include:
- Use personal experiences to create a new category, but ensure consumer trends, facts, and science support it.
- Create a footprint that’s fast and easy to replicate and scale.
- Engage celebrities in endorsing your brand.
- Gather compelling testimonials to accelerate word-of-mouth.
- When you operate nationally you can still give franchisees local decision-making input.
- Invest in local search and digital media.
Gold and other founders see opportunities in this trend and realize that multi-location retailers must create concepts that bring healthier living to consumers’ neighborhoods.