Fitness Boutique 1Rebel Gears Up For Middle East Expansion


LONDON, United Kingdom — London-based boutique fitness operator 1Rebel has announced plans to expand into seven countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt.

The self-proclaimed ‘king of gyms’ has partnered with Pulse Fitness — a company owned by industry veterans Fahad Al Hagbani and Nathan Clute, which develops and operates multiple boutique fitness brands across the Middle East — to facilitate the large-scale expansion. 

The collaboration also points to a potential expansion of Pulse’ own boutique fitness brand MAVERX, beyond the Middle East.

“When we looked to enter the Middle East market, and after doing our diligence, we quickly realized that there was only one partner we wanted to work with,” said 1Rebel co-founder James Balfour, of the Al Hagbani family.

“There is a certain comfort in dealing with a team that knows their market and the industry inside-out. We trust them to be strong custodians of our brand” added Giles Dean, co-founder of 1Rebel.

And, as the $2.3 billion MENA fitness industry continues to grow, with successful international fitness operators including Barry’s Bootcamp, Fitness First, Gold’s Gym, Anytime Fitness and Equinox all expanding in the region, this insider knowledge could prove crucial in the race to dominate the market.

Having previously founded BodyMasters and Fitness Time, the largest chain of fitness centres in the Middle East, Al Hagbani is well-positioned to replicate his success within the boutique segment. And he believes, together with 1Rebel, their unmatched set of capabilities will ensure the delivery of the best boutique fitness experience in the region.

For 1Rebel, however, the Middle East isn’t its only focus moving forward. 2020 will also see the ambitious brand taking its disruptive offering to Australia — the first international opening for the company since its inception in 2015.

Speaking with Welltodo last year, Balfour explained 1Rebel’s decision to launch in the country, by arguing that: “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. 

Adding that: “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.” 

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Two additional London studios are also in the brand’s pipeline, with Holborn and Oxford Circus both set to open their doors early this year. And with a recent Technogym partnership helping to propel the brand into the rapidly growing digital fitness space, the next 12 months look set to be a turning point for the fitness brand as is establishes itself on the global stage.

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