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PureGym eyes up to 130 branches as part of Mena expansion

PureGym has expansion plans for the UAE, Egypt, Kuwait and Oman
  • UK gym giant strikes agreement for 130 health clubs
  • Health and fitness market to grow at rate of 7.61% annually to 2028
  • Dubai-based Enhance Fitness opened in Saudi Arabia this summer

UK-based fitness brand PureGym has revealed plans to open branches in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), beginning in the UAE but with Egypt, Kuwait and Oman also on the radar.

The company has signed an agreement with its franchise partner, Ektimal, to open at least 130 gyms across the region over the next five to 10 years.

Francine Davis, chief strategy officer at PureGym, told AGBI: “We have ambitious plans for expansion across Mena and are in the process of identifying new markets with a strong consumer appetite for affordable, flexible fitness and those where value gym provision is currently lacking.”

The move comes as the fitness sector across the Mena region has witnessed huge growth in recent years, with young and urban populations increasingly adopting a healthy lifestyle.

There has also been a rising demand for value fitness, as evidenced by the opening of the first seven PureGym clubs in Saudi Arabia. The company, which debuted in the region with its first Saudi gym in November 2021, said it wants to open about 40 gyms in the kingdom by 2025.

In August, Enhance Fitness, a Dubai-based personal training platform, also expanded into Saudi Arabia as the kingdom embraces a major health push, creating new business opportunities.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics recently said that 48 percent of people across the country now practice physical and sporting activities for at least 30 minutes a week. 

This is part of the country’s ambition to create a healthy and vibrant society in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 Quality of Life Objectives.

Person, Human, Shoe
The Dubai-based Enhance Fitness personal training platform has expanded into Saudi Arabia

PureGym has signed an agreement to launch its first three gyms in Dubai later this year, with plans to launch at least a further 20 in the UAE over the next five years.

The company said the UAE ranks as the second most expensive country in the world for gym memberships and it sees “significant demand for value fitness”.

Coming out of the pandemic, the market saw pricing reduce significantly as clubs chased volume after losing members during the lockdown. While creeping back up, prices are unlikely to hit 2019 levels due to rising competition. 

The UAE is encouraging its residents to get fit, with Dubai holding an annual Fitness Challenge which involves 30 minutes of activity each day for 30 days. Last year, 1.65 million people took part, more than double than in the first year in 2017. The sixth edition starts this Saturday.

“At a group level we have plans to double the size of our estate to more than 1,000 gyms in the medium term,” Davis said.

“And in the next five years we have an agreement to open 130 gyms in the Middle East and North Africa, although our ambitions for the region exceed this.

“We see a hugely exciting opportunity for growth in the Mena region. We’re actively looking at Egypt and although it’s still early days we’re also scoping out the potential for entering GCC markets such as Kuwait and Oman too.”

The global health and fitness club market is estimated to grow at a rate of 7.61 percent annually to 2028 and by 2024 could be worth $136.6 billion, according to researcher Statista.

PureGym, which has 1.7m global members across 525 clubs, successfully launched in Saudi Arabia in 2021

Davis added that as the Middle East increasingly becomes a global sporting destination, she hopes enjoyment of sport “will trickle down into a greater focus on fitness, health and wellbeing, which is exactly what we’re trying to deliver with PureGym Arabia”. 

“We are also eager to enter markets where we can make a positive societal contribution, something we believe we have already achieved with the provision of our accessible female-only gyms in Saudi Arabia,” she said.

Humphrey Cobbold, CEO of PureGym Group, added: “We successfully launched in Saudi Arabia last year and are more than satisfied with the response from members. The UAE was an obvious choice to continue our expansion.”

Earlier this year, UAE-founded fitness startup GymNation was sold for an undisclosed amount to JD Sports Gyms, part of the FTSE 100 giant JD Sports Fashion.

Founded in 2018, GymNation has locations across Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi and has attracted over 40,000 members.

Fitness First has more than 70,000 members in over 56 clubs across 46 locations across the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. 

PureGym said Mena gym members will have the freedom to freeze, leave and re-join whenever they want through its app while most of its gyms will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

PureGym’s Middle East CEO Susan Turner said: “We believe that our value proposition combining flexibility and affordability with high-quality equipment, classes and industry-leading technology will appeal to the fitness sector in the UAE, which is being driven strongly by the UAE’s wise leadership and vision for the nation to embrace an active lifestyle.”

Simon Penney, HM Trade Commissioner for the Middle East, said that the scale of PureGym’s ambitions “demonstrates the attractiveness of the Middle East as a region for investment from British businesses, strengthens our bilateral trade and investment links, and will contribute to the long-term growth and prosperity of the region”.

PureGym currently has 1.7 million members across 525 clubs in the UK, Denmark, Switzerland, the US and Saudi Arabia. 

Now the market leader in the UK, PureGym was launched there in 2009 where it pioneered the model for affordable fitness clubs.

In early 2020, the company acquired Fitness World, the largest fitness provider in Denmark and owner of Basefit in Switzerland. It opened its first sites in the United States with a new brand called Pure Fitness in January of this year.