Groceries and glutes: Supermarkets add boutique gyms and yoga classes

A yoga class on the rooftop plaza at Whole Foods' flagship store in Austin, Texas.

Supermarkets are trying to entice shoppers with more than just food.

Hy-Vee is teaming up with high-intensity training gym OrangeTheory to build studios attached to two of its stores. In Morristown, New Jersey, ShopRite opened a store with a fitness studio that offers yoga and Zumba classes for its shoppers with loyalty cards. And Whole Foods' flagship store in Austin, Texas, partners with barre, spinning and yoga studios in the area for classes on its rooftop plaza.

As competition in the grocery industry stiffens, these stores hope to attract time-strapped shoppers by creating convenient experiences that shoppers can't replicate online. Grocery stores see an opening in the surging fitness industry, one of the rare business areas that has not been cannibalized by Amazon: Over the past four years, boutique studio memberships in the United States have increased by 70%, according to IHRSA, an industry trade group.

"Grocers are understanding that to bring people back in store they must create these activities," said Jamie Sabat, director of trends and consumer forecasting at consulting firm Streetsense. "They want to create this hangout factor in the store."

Although grocery tie-ups with fitness companies are still in their nascent stages, bringing on gyms makes sense for health-oriented grocers, said Diana Sheehan, analyst at Kantar Retail. She predicted that H-E-B or Meijer may add a fitness-related concept in the future. H-E-B, the cult-favorite in Texas, already sponsors free yoga in some of its stores.

Experts say grocers have also stepped up their focus on catering to customers' health demands in recent years. Supermarkets are adding juice bars and health clinics and bringing dieticians into stores.

Hy-Vee's experiment with OrangeTheory is a bellwether for other retailers.

Hy-Vee and OrangeTheory are testing out studios attached to a full-size Hy-Vee supermarket in Shakopee, Minnesota, as well as a "HealthMarket," a slimmed-down Hy-Vee store. This 15,000-square-foot concept store in West Des Moines, Iowa — around one-sixth the size of a traditional Hy-Vee — has a pharmacy, health clinic, and hearing aid and sports nutrition areas. It also offers nitro coffee, kombucha and Bevi-infused water.

"We are constantly looking for new partners and innovations that will appeal to our customers and their ever-changing lifestyles," said Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker.

Grocers are not alone in turning to the fitness industry for growth. Malls and brick-and-mortar retailers are betting on gyms and boutique studios to win over their shoppers.

The number of fitness tenants in shopping centers has more doubled over the last decade, according to CoStar. And traditional retailers such as Kohl's joined with Planet Fitness to add gyms adjacent to a handful of stores, while Lululemon has studios at its new flagship store in Chicago and in Minneapolis.

Planet Fitness offers clues into why companies are eager to bring on fitness clubs: The chain says that when its members go to the gym, 76% of them combine their visits with other shopping.