As the world is slowly re-opening, the future is looking bright for the martial arts industry.
Martial arts schools have provided a very important service to their communities throughout the pandemic, giving adults and children a place to stay healthy – both physically and mentally. Now, as COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted across the country, many schools are seeing a surge of growth. Some so much so that they are looking for larger spaces or even considering opening a second location. Others who were forced to close due to the pandemic are ready to jump back in and continue changing lives, but now are in need of a new space.
Either of these situations ring a bell? If you’re seeking a new space for your school, we want to start by congratulating you! We are overjoyed to see so many martial arts schools recover and grow after the pandemic. Next, we want to make sure that you’re prepared for your next move. After all, you are about to make one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as a school owner – choosing the perfect location!
Enough with the pep talk, here are a few tips and tricks that are sure to get you through that stressful selection process:
1.) Estimate Your Space
Let’s begin by asking the obvious: How much space do you need?
You want to have adequate space for anticipated future growth…but you can’t afford to pay for space that will not be generating revenue. In one of our recent articles we discussed an important, but often overlooked, key performance indicator – revenue per square foot. Check out the article here to learn more.
Still feeling unsure? Our article “Beware: Little Expenses and Hidden Costs” will teach you everything you need to know when it comes to the importance of facility size when weighing the accompanying cost of rent.
Here’s the big takeaway: You need to be super careful when selecting your space. We recommend that you sit down and draw out your ideal layout (along with some dimensions) – we’re talking mat space, guest areas, a reception desk, retail space, etc. When you finally go school shopping, you will be armed with a general idea of your needs and will be able to better analyze if a particular place sufficiently meets your needs.
2.) Think Through Your Location
Selecting the right area of town is crucial. Did you know that most people who train in the martial arts do so at a school that is less than 5 miles away from where they live? Well it’s true, so it’s in your best interest to choose a location that is close to densely populated neighborhoods. It’s all about finding your customers, rather than hoping they just happen to find you.
But don’t stop there – now it’s time to consider the demographics of those nearby neighborhoods. Does the surrounding area attract a younger college crowd? Are they largely elderly retirement neighborhoods? Is it a large military community? Are there public schools nearby? Are the neighborhoods affluent and therefore more likely to pay a premium for their training? Or is the location near less-wealthy neighborhoods where clients will be looking for bargain rates?
You must also weigh these factors against your particular passion for teaching – do you enjoy teaching mainly children? If so, finding a location near an elementary school might be your best bet. Or maybe you like teaching self-defense to seniors. If so, being located near retirement communities will help you attract the right clients. In an ideal world, your location should be convenient and easily accessible to the particular type of clients you are seeking.
So how do you find that perfect community? It’s actually a lot easier than it seems – the US Census Bureau has all the information you’re looking for at the click of a button. Simply type in a zip code and you’ll be met with all sorts of data on population, trends (whether the area is growing or declining), median household income, average age, and facts about the local economy.
3.) Weigh Cost Against Income
Let us guess – rent is your school’s single largest expense. Were we right?
For most martial arts schools, the hardest financial hit comes when that dreaded rent due date sneaks up each month. Therefore, it’s essential that you weigh the cost of the location you’re considering against what you project your monthly income to be. Be sure to leave room for taxes, insurance, utilities, payroll, equipment needs, and of course, profit!
But there’s a caveat. While cost is important, you also can’t overlook the fact that while one space may be more expensive than another, if it has a built-in customer base, it may actually be the better option. Let’s say you find the seemingly perfect building – it fits the size of your student population, looks beautiful, and falls into your price range. Here’s the catch – the location sucks. If there aren’t any potential students living nearby, those saved dollars probably aren’t worth it. Instead, you may want to opt for a slightly more expensive building that is surrounded by families looking for a new activity for their children.
4.) Before Buying, Beware of Competitors
No one likes to do it, but you need to take a good look at the competition in your potential location before signing that lease. It’s worth it, trust us! While you want to locate somewhere where there is demand, you also don’t want to end up picking a location that is already saturated with competitors.
5.) Make Your Own Observations
Not everything can be learned on the Internet – some answers you just have to find for yourself. If you can, take the time to visit a location that you’re seriously considering and just observe the area. Is it a high traffic region? Does parking become a problem at certain times of the day? Are nearby businesses driving a lot of foot traffic? Be sure to make these observations during both the day and night.
Next, learn from your neighbors. Don’t be afraid to talk to nearby business owners and ask about previous tenants. What sort of businesses were previously located in the space? Why did they leave? And, while you’re at it, consider offering neighboring businesses a discount for their employees!
6.) Zoning Ordinances and Permits and Licenses, oh my!
With a commercial location, zoning ordinances typically aren’t a concern. However, some cities do require businesses to have certain permits or licenses, enforce zoning restrictions regarding the distance from schools and parks, have regulations on your hours of operation, and so on. Leave no stone unturned and check in with your city officials.
7.) Take Your Time
Picking the right location can make or break your school, so be patient! You don’t want to rush into a decision and then realize that your location doesn’t fit your student population, fails to cater to your desired client base, or is surrounded by successful competitors that have already gained the community’s trust.
If after careful consideration you’re still unsure, rather than committing to a multi-year agreement, consider signing a short-term lease with an option to extend. It may not be your first choice right now, but your future self will thank you!
Good news – you’re now armed and ready to begin your search! These are exciting times for our industry and Kicksite is committed to always providing you with useful, relevant, and actionable content to help ensure your success. Good luck!