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GymNation founder says Dubai needs more affordable gym pricing

GymNation founder says Dubai needs more affordable gym pricing
June 25, 2020

Gyms in Dubai are 'overcharging' customers with an 'outdated' pricing model that makes it difficult to stay fit, according to Loren Holland, founder and Chief Executive of budget fitness chain GymNation.

Speaking to Arabian Business, Holland says a large portion of Dubai's population can't afford a gym membership because fitness clubs charge customers upfront.

Together with co-founder Frank Afeaki, Holland set up GymNation in Dubai in 2018 to offer consumers a low-cost option, with memberships starting at AED99. The pair had previously helped build affordable gym chains Crunch Fitness and Xcercise4Less in Australia and the UK respectively.

Holland told Arabian Business “typical gyms in Dubai have been overcharging, and it doesn’t sit well with people to know they've been overcharged for so long. We’ve come into the market with a fresh approach to make it flexible and affordable. Where do you ever prepay for 12 months?

“You pay as you go at the cinema, restaurant, brunch; you pay as you go for every consumer product in the market. Why do gyms have to be different?

"Even rent in most markets is paid monthly, and Dubai is moving towards that direction. I pay my rent monthly now. That model of charging people upfront seems to be out of date; that’s what makes it unaffordable - not necessarily the price. This market makes it difficult for anybody to stay fit and active because you’re priced out of the market.”

According to a recent study by Deutsche Bank, gym memberships in Dubai are the second highest in the world in terms of price.

Looking to offer an alternative, Holland says GymNation’ pay-as-you-go business model makes it a "Netflix of gyms"

She noted “when we set up GymNation two years ago, it was to tackle the pain that gym memberships (in Dubai) were the second highest in the world, and a big part of the population was priced out of market. They might want to be fit and active, but can’t afford a gym membership. I fell into that category. I wasn't willing to pay AED1,000 for a membership.”

Seeing that the Coronavirus emphasises the need for more affordable gyms in the Emirate, Holland adds “with Coronavirus, people (have been) made redundant, lost their income or their discretionary spending has been squeezed, so having an affordable option is driving our business more than ever. We’ve already started to see consolidation in the market, with several operators not reopening post the coronavirus.”

After closing down in March in line with UAE Government directives to tackle the spread of the Coronavirus, GymNation has sold over 2,100 memberships since reopening at the end of May.

While its low membership prices require it to have more members to sustain its finances compared to smaller gyms, its massive size - it boasts the largest spin studio in Dubai - can welcome as many as 1,500 customers.

Landlords in the UAE have been reluctant to help gyms during the Coronavirus crisis, according to Marcus Smith, best known as the man who ran 30 marathons in 30 days before setting up his own gym in Dubai, InnerFight.

Smith told Arabian Business “(they) are not being helpful at all … they’re not giving any support.”

The impact of COVID-19 has already seen five Dubai gyms not continue operations beyond the recent shutdown.

Image: GymNation brought affordabel fitness to Duabi. Image courtesy of GymNation.

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