James Balfour, CEO of 1Rebel

In this Q&A you’ll hear from James Balfour, CEO of boutique fitness brand 1Rebel, operator of 10 multi-modality London studios, plus two in Australia and one in the UAE. James shares details about 1Rebel’s next London club, its future foray into recovery and how a holistic health-focused evolution drives member attendance.

Get us up to date with 1REBEL.

James Balfour: Founded in 2015, 1Rebel is one of the leading players in London’s boutique industry with 10 clubs, alongside two in Melbourne, Australia and one in Dubai, UAE.

In London, we now offer four class types: Reshape, Ride, Rumble and Reformer. The latter, introduced in 2022, is now one of our leading concepts.

While the last three years haven’t been without their difficulties, we emerged from COVID with renewed strength. With new investment partners, a clear vision and streamlined strategy, we’re seeing sales and attendance up in excess of 20% compared with last year.

How are you aligning with a more holistic-minded consumer?

JB: This is a trend we’ve been focusing on. Reformer was the first move we made away from our traditional high-intensity model, giving our customers a lower-impact and more mindful modality to complement their fitness routine.

We’ve since introduced specific workshops for members on topics such as mental health – for which we partnered with Self Space – plus sleep and recovery. We’ve also reviewed our regular Prosecco Fridays and other drinks partnerships to ensure we always have nonalcoholic options available.

This year, we’re also potentially launching a new recovery-focused concept. It’s all part of a commitment to servicing our clients in as many avenues as possible.

How do you reach new members?

JB: With regard to recruitment, our biggest driver has always been organic word of mouth. We generate a huge number of referrals by providing excellent experiences in the clubs, such as bringing in well-known DJs and other live acts to perform, or surprising customers when they least expect it. Our aim is to kick-start “you’ll never guess what my gym did” conversations amongst friends.

We believe in driving retention through an unrelenting focus on quality and keeping the bar high at every session, from the strength of the trainers to music curation and lighting to excellence in our customer service.

Every detail is considered, and I believe it’s this consistency that keeps bringing them back.

How are you approaching expansion?

JB: Our current plan is to focus on growing our estate within existing territories. We know there are plenty of opportunities in these markets, even in London.

Going forward, we will also be focusing on wholly-owned ventures. We dipped our toe into the world of franchising but have decided that, strategically, it works better for us in the short-term to maintain full control.

What’s on the roadmap for the next six months?

JB: This year we are looking to open at least one new club in central London, alongside making additions to our estate, for example, by taking underutilised space to build on the success of current concepts. As mentioned, we’re also developing a new concept that we should be able to share more about later in the year.

What consumer trends are you most excited about in 2024 & beyond?

JB: More than ever before, we’re seeing customers becoming more educated and interested in fitness and well-being, especially since the pandemic. It’s exciting to see things like recovery moving to the top of the agenda and customers using exercise as a tool for mental well-being, alongside its physical benefits.

It remains on us to assess what trends are fads and which are here to stay, but we also know that if we continue to provide excellence across the board, our customers will trust us to deliver what’s best.

If you’re interested in having your company featured in our Q&A series, send an email to hello@welltodoglobal.com.

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