Healthier lifestyles are dominating both consumer consciousness and M&A. As far as fitness goes, that means a shift towards the specialized, especially classes.
One such class - Pure Barre - recently attracted dealmaker attention. Consumer-focused private equity firm Catterton invested in the ballet-inspired exercise class in May, partnering with former majority owner WJ Partners, an investment firm, and founder, Carrie Rezabek Dorr. Pure Barre was started in 2001 by Dorr, a dancer, choreographer and fitness expert, in Birmingham, Michigan. The company became a franchisee in 2009, and attracted WJ Partners, a Spartanburg, South Carolina-based firm as an investor in 2012.
The brand's first apparel line launched in 2013, and has significant headroom to expand. Catterton, headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, has significant experience investing in the specialized fitness space.
The PE firm is currently invested in yoga studio operator CorePower Yoga, indoor cycling brand Flywheel Sports,
and women's activewear brand Sweaty Betty.
When WJ Partners bought a majority stake in Pure Barre the business had about 100 studios. By 2015, under the guidance of WJ's husband-and-wife duo Ben and Jaime Wall, that number had tripled. Mergers & Acquisitions spoke with Jaime Wall about the trends that drove Catterton's investment, as well as the classes themselves.
What about Pure Barre brought in Catterton?
Pure Barre is such a unique brand. The reasons we were attracted to it are the same reasons Catterton was attracted to it - it's a passionate group - everyone's in love with the Pure Barre Brand. It is more than just a physical exercise, it is a lifestyle. From everything that they wear, to the women they hang out with inside and outside of the studio. Everyone who is a franchisee has been a client. People take classes, then want to become instructors, then they want to be franchisees.
What does the Catterton investment mean for Pure Barre?
We will continue to grow the franchise base and we will continue to grow the product business. In September 2013 we launched our first branded Pure Barre apparel, and there is a lot of headroom left for us to expand. People always wondered if Barre was a fad, and it really turned out to be a sustainable form of exercise.
What are the trends behind this deal?
It's an overall fitness industry movement towards peak fitness, and a movement from the treadmill to a great class. Pure Barre feels like personal training, classes are around 20 people, and it's part of a movement towards specialized fitness. Generally, people may or may not keep their gym membership, but they will spend for a class.