Australia Braces for British Boutiques as 1Rebel Confirms Expansion Plans for 2020


MELBOURNE, Australia — 1Rebel, one of London’s leading boutique operators, will progress its first phase of international expansion in February 2020, opening its first studio outside the UK in Melbourne, Australia. 

The no-contract, high-intensity gym disruptor will face stiff competition from established heavyweights such as F45 as well as an influx of boutique fitness brands from the UK and US heading Down Under. 

Rival boutique studio Barry’s Bootcamp, which currently operates three locations in Sydney, has stolen a march on 1Rebel, recently announcing plans to open its first Melbourne site in October this year, with a second soon to follow. 

Similarly, one of the UK’s fastest-growing yoga brands Fierce Grace is preparing to open Australasia’s first studio franchise in Queenstown, New Zealand, in September.

Despite the increased competition from US and UK operators, as well as the established low cost and boutique market leaders, 1Rebel co-founder James Balfour believes Australia represents a significant opportunity for disruptive fitness brands to succeed. 

Speaking exclusively to Welltodo, Balfour said: “The industry continues to boom in Australia and the boutique segment remains very fragmented, offering an opportunity for a company that wants to grow a brand and benefit from a network effect. 

“There is a significant opportunity for UK fitness brands overseas, especially in at-home and on-demand workouts that disrupt the more traditional fitness models and circumvent some of the nuances in international labour laws.” 

While Balfour acknowledged the growth of low cost and boutique operators since they first launched in 2014, he doesn’t see either as a threat to 1Rebel’s planned expansion. 

“Neither [low cost or boutique operators]threaten 1Rebel’s prospects,” he said. “In fact, they compliment 1Rebel’s plans. 

“The low-cost segment often expands the number of fitness users by lowering the cost of entry for first-timers, whilst the rise in boutiques demonstrates the shift in the market towards experiential fitness which we believe 1Rebel is at the forefront of.”

The Melbourne launch suggests 1Rebel is ready to fulfil Balfour’s ambitious expansion targets. 

Speaking to Health Club Management in 2018, Balfour outlined plans to open 15 clubs in London and eight more Down Under within five years. 

To date, 1Rebel has opened six studios across London, with Holborn and Oxford Circus earmarked to open their doors by the end of 2019. 

Last year the self-acclaimed “anti-gym” disruptor received £6.6 million investment from venture capital fund Codex Capital and recently announced its 2019 valuation has seen a 360% increase to £36 million since it was first valued at £10 million in July 2018. 

The brand has also partnered with Italian-based fitness equipment company Technogym to launch an interactive at-home streaming service to rival the US giant Peloton. 

Read More: Technogym Unveils At-Home Fitness proposition With Leading Boutiques 1Rebel & Rumble

In an earlier statement, Balfour said: “This partnership with Technogym will not only enable us to challenge an existing market with our premium class offerings but most importantly, it will allow consumers to take our bold and unapologetic brand into the comfort of their own home. 

“With the launch of this new vertical, 1Rebel will see a target valuation of £150 million by 2021.” 

Having appointed a CEO and management team in Australia for the Melbourne launch, Balfour confirmed the new studio will be the same 1Rebel model as the company pioneered in London, “but there will be some local adaptations that will likely go beyond existing expectations in the Australian boutique market”.

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