During the past decade, Pilates has become part of the public consciousness. While Lindsay and Moira Merrithew, who created STOTT PILATES, may not have single-handedly popularized the practice, they've done their fair share to make it mainstream in recent years.
[Editor's note: The name of the company was recently changed from STOTT PILATES to Merrithew Health & Fitness, aligning it more closely with the parent company, the Merrithew Health & Fitness Group.] In 1988, the couple opened their first Pilates studio in Toronto, Canada, now home to the corporate offices of the Merrithew Health and Fitness Group. "We felt that Pilates had to be more than an exercise regimen reserved for a privileged few," recalls Lindsay. "Our mission was to demystify the method and make it accessible to a wider audience."
But, even then, the pair had a larger vision for the company. "At that time, there were few manufacturers of equipment or comprehensive teacher-training centers," notes Moira. "In our view, there was a sound business model that incorporated supplying state-of the-art Pilates-based equipment, quality education, and an adaptable business model to heath club owners and fitness professionals. That was the basis of our business."
Lindsay, president and CEO, focused on building and diversifying the business, while Moira, executive director of education—who was also certified as an instructor at Joseph Pilates' original studio in New York—began training clients. Over time, and in collaboration with various physical therapists, physiotherapists, and sports-medicine professionals, the Merrithews built their concept into a comprehensive, systematic, contemporary approach to the original teachings.
"A key aspect to the success and growth of our company is the importance we've placed on building and maintaining strong relationships with the people who license our educational programming, purchase our equipment, and replicate our business model," observes Lindsay. "Our goal is to continue to build upon those educational and equipment-based relationships so that, together, we can promote the benefits of more mindful forms of exercise to a wider audience."
The Merrithews' work on both the model and the goal has paid off: Today, there are 55 STOTT PILATES Licensed Training Centers in 23 countries, and three corporately-owned centers, in Toronto, Denver, and New York City.
While the company doesn't release financials, Lindsay characterizes its consistent growth as follows: "During the past five years alone, the number of students trained in the STOTT PILATES method has grown from 12,730 to 28,025 in 106 countries, an increase of more than 120%. In 2009, Merrithew Health and Fitness exceeded 30% in growth, and the number of students trained over the last year increased by 34%. We're projecting growth of more than 10% for our 2010 fiscal year."