Nearly five years after exiting the specialty retail business in Colorado, Chip Hunnings is poised to step back in with a new venture called Colorado Home Fitness.
Hunnings, who confirmed to SNEWS® his lease as of April 1 of a former Busy Body Home Fitness site in Englewood, Colo., an affluent suburb of Denver, said he will start build out immediately and plans to open June 1 as Colorado Home Fitness.
"It's a great market. I know it, and I live here," Hunnings said. "Denver offers a pretty strong opportunity and I've had the benefit of seeing how strong it's been in the past.
"It's taken a hit, but not as hard as the other markets," he added.
With his other businesses in different states, he said he is involved more in big picture decisions but can't influence the stores and staff as much in ongoing projects. With this new store, which he reported he planned to expand by one or two more by year's end, he will work sales shifts and will consistently be around more to help it develop.
In contrast to his All About Fitness retail business, which he operated with partners, and his current retail businesses with partners in Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina and Oklahoma, Hunnings will be a sole proprietor in this new venture. The All About Fitness chain of nine stores in Colorado, Arizona and Nevada was sold in 2004 to Fitness Holdings International as FHI was beginning to grow its business. Click here to see that May 3, 2004, SNEWS story, "Busy Body CA buys All About Fitness, becomes largest U.S. retailer." When FHI acquired AAF and transformed them into Busy Body stores, it jumped to 53 retail outlets in the Western region and, at its peak in the Denver metropolitan area, operated eight stores.
With the exit of the Busy Body stores under its ongoing bankruptcy reorganization, remaining in the area are the HealthStyles stores (www.healthstylesexercise.com); one Fitness Gallery store, after a second closed March 29 (www.fitnessgallery.com); and several one-store operators, including Fitness Systems in Colorado Springs (www.fitnesssystems.biz), All About Fitness in Fort Collins (www.all-aboutfitness.com), and Maximum Fitness of Vail.
Hunnings said he believes the venture offers enough possibility of reward to outweigh risks based on the current economic situation. The store will also be an "incubation" to allow him to try different designs, layouts, colors, services and features.
"The goal is to create an experience," he said. He said he asked himself, "How can I tell a story about us being special?"
Colorado Home Fitness will have staff personal trainers, will do its own delivery and service, will offer a design center for home workout rooms, and will hire a designer to create a comfortable, less intimidating and inviting atmosphere in line with the retail expectations of area consumers.
"Shouldn't a consumer get that from us?" he asked.
"Our goal is not to just sell a piece of equipment," he added, "but to give that customer an experience they don't get very often."
SNEWS® View: Much of what Hunnings said he will try is not new to retail and in fact may not be new to fitness specialty. But few if any fitness specialty stores offer the entire package, from trainers and service, to delivery and in-house design services, to a look and a store feel that is put together by a designer. Especially in an area like Englewood, the store could tap into a need that some consumers will find more appealing. We'd, of course, love to see fitness retail go even a step further in offering a place people would drop into regularly for advice, assorted small gear, education, events, classes and to meet up with others in a community atmosphere. Nevertheless, we will be interested to see how far Hunnings can take this concept -- and how the economy will treat it.