Last month, celebrities and activists called for a boycott of SoulCycle. The outrage erupted over news that Stephen Ross, chairman of SoulCycle’s parent company, was throwing a fundraising gala for President Trump’s reelection with tickets priced as high as $250,000. New data suggests that some SoulCycle customers were so upset they stopped attending classes entirely.
In August, the number of purchases at SoulCycle dropped 12.8% compared to the previous month, according to the data analysis firm Second Measure. During the same period last year, SoulCycle customers dropped 4% month-over-month. Second Measure’s data shows that this is the largest month-over-month decline the company has seen all year. SoulCycle did not respond to request for comment by press time.
Second Measure analyzes U.S. credit and debit card transactions to draw conclusions about where people are spending their money. It’s worth noting that Second Measure doesn’t track all SoulCycle transactions, like corporate purchases of SoulCycle classes. Also, if a customer purchases a huge bundle of classes upfront, that customer would only be counted in the month they made the purchase. However, information from another research firm suggests that this particular drop in customers may be related to the Trump fundraiser. Earlier this month, Recode reported that attendance at SoulCycle had diminished in the last two weeks of August and the first week of September, citing Earnest Research.
The relationship between Ross and SoulCycle is convoluted. Ross is the founder and chairman of Related Companies, which purchased Equinox way back in 2006. Five years later, Equinox bought SoulCycle, bringing it under the Related umbrella.
In 2019, political alignments are under scrutiny. The ire against SoulCycle has been particularly pronounced, and that is likely due in part to the young, hip, and metropolitan consumer base it attracts. SoulCycle publicly espouses a commitment to “diversity, inclusion, and equality,” but President Trump has a history of discriminatory policy making (See: banning transgender service members, denying entry to people from majority-Muslim countries, etc.). SoulCycle tried to remind customers of its inclusive credo in a response to the boycott, noting that it works to create a “safe space where we all are welcome.”
Not everyone was convinced.
everyone who cancels their equinox and soul cycle memberships, meet me at the library. bring weights
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) August 7, 2019
Notably, it appears that Equinox has not been impacted as much by the boycott. Second Measure indicates the company only saw a 2% drop in customers. This could be thanks to cancellation fees or the general difficulty of cancelling a gym membership. It’s also possible Equinox members are just more devout.
After the boycott, both brands tried to distance themselves from Ross. SoulCycle has called him a passive investor, someone who is not intimately involved in the business. It’s possible that SoulCycle has autonomy, but Ross does receive financial benefit from the company’s success.
None of this bodes well for SoulCycle. In general, it appears as if the company’s customers are less committed than they once were. SoulCycle’s customer figures for August declined 13% year-over-year per Second Measure’s data. Overall monthly customer transactions are not as high as they were last year, the report shows, which may have also contributed to the decline between July and August.
The boycott’s effectiveness should perhaps signal a warning to companies that want to profit on inclusive communities and then use that money to support discriminatory causes.