Retail’s Sweet Spot: Health, Beauty and Fitness are in Bloom


Lululemon Founder To Step Down After Commments About The Brand's Customers BodiesWipe the proverbial sweat off your brow.

At a time when much of the shopping experience is conducted online and consumers remain cautious with how they spend their money, there has emerged a retail sweet spot—the healthy lifestyle, or what Peter Ripka calls, “the feel-good categories.” 

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And those are, quite simply: “uses that make people feel good about themselves and just improve their overall well-being,” Mr. Ripka, the co-founder of Ripco Real Estate, said.

Fitness centers, athletic apparel, beauty aids and health foods all contribute to health-conscious living so it’s no surprise that all four are thriving in New York City.

Planet Fitness Wall Street Grand Opening
Planet Fitness Wall Street

While the health, beauty and fitness industries have been growing in New York City and other urban areas for the last several years, people have been pumping their dollars into those categories with a fevered pitch of enthusiasm.

“I think it’s been sort of building for a while,” said Jeffrey Roseman, an executive vice president at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank who is on Blink Fitness’ Manhattan leasing team. “The world is different than it used to be. There is so much more attention on being healthy.”

Perhaps in response to the rapid interest, there has been a surge in the number of gym openings in New York City, especially low-cost options like Planet Fitness and Blink Fitness, as well as boutique fitness studios like Flywheel and Laughing Lotus Yoga Center.

“People more than ever are conscious of exercising and this goes from young children to senior citizens—so the overall pool of people that now workout has grown dramatically—it’s a cultural change in our society,” Mr. Ripka said. “So it’s not surprising in my mind to see different health clubs; some high-end, some more budget, some in the middle, some that concentrate on private training some that have group fitness all filling the [desire] to exercise.”

Cycling their hearts out.

While they work out, people want to look their best.

Lululemon Athletica opened a men’s apparel store at 127 Prince Street at Wooster Street in Soho on Black Friday and is slated to open a women’s-only place across the street in winter 2015, Women’s Wear Daily reported. Under Armour performance underwear and clothing company opened its first New York City store, its largest ever, in 13,000 square feet (plus 7,500 for storage) in Soho. And Sweaty Betty, a British activewear brand rivaling Lululemon, has opened its first U.S. store in Soho.

“What’s happening is it’s fashion and it’s comfort,” said Ariel Schuster, an executive vice president with RKF. Women and men are not just wearing their athletic attire when they work out. “It’s changed the way people dress,” he added.

Similarly, Robin Abrams, an executive vice president at the Lansco Corporation, said: “It has become fashionable and acceptable for leisure wear and weekend uniforms to now consist of workout apparel, rather than jeans and a T-shirt. Some wear that to the gym and then don’t change on a Saturday or Sunday and others don’t even go to the gym and just run around in tight pants and tops. In keeping with this health and fitness trend, many are serious about not just how they look, but how they feel, and therefore do work out and make specific eating choices.”

Lyfe Kitchen.

Lyfe Kitchen, a healthy eating concept restaurant, just opened its first New York location at Boston Properties’ 250 West 55th Street. Health food chain Sweetgreen has made inroads into New York City with stores at 413 Greenwich Street in Tribeca, 100 Kenmare Street in Nolita and 247 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. Paleo/primal diet eatery Hu Kitchen is opening a location in the summer of 2015 in roughly 7,000 square feet at 1536 Third Avenue between East 86th and East 87th Streets, as Commercial Observer previously reported.

In the healthy beverage category, there has been a surge in the number of juice purveyors.

In early 2015, popular fresh juice, smoothies and raw food bar Juice Generation will open its first Financial District location at 101 Maiden Lane in early 2015. Also, as CO reported in March, rapidly expanding raw juice and smoothie bar Juice Press opened a 13,459-square-foot “superstore” at the Falchi Building in Long Island City.

The specialty beauty stores are seeing their day, too. Harmon Face Values store, selling cosmetics, health and beauty products, opened toward the end of last year in Chelsea in over 10,500 square feet. And skincare specialist Infinite Beauty opened the Upper East Side this past summer, as CO reported before the store’s opening.

The beauty category is strong and will see a lot more growth, said Karen Bellantoni, an executive vice president at RKF.

“Beauty goes hand in hand with taking care of yourself,” Ms. Bellantoni said. Also, she noted, even if people aren’t investing money in big fashion-related purchases, they can generally afford to pick up a lipstick, and as many women would say, “it feels good.”