Belfast Telegraph

Fitness chain Gymbox looks to expand outside London

London-based fitness chain Gymbox is exploring options to expand outside the capital and internationally for the first time.

Richard Hilton, the group's founder, told the Press Association that the firm is initially looking at Leeds, Manchester and Brighton in the UK as demand for the group's quirky fitness classes soars.

"Business is going very well, we had a terrific last year and our new clubs are trading well, so we're looking at international expansion and expansion outside of London.

"In the UK, Leeds, Manchester and Brighton are looking likely. Internationally, we think it could work in Europe and Asia but nothing has been identified yet, we're analysing all the options," he said.

Gymbox, founded in 2003, has nine clubs across London and boasts 26,000 members. Three more will open in the capital in 2017, including in Victoria and the City.

The fast-growing firm has cashed in on the popularity of its unorthodox fitness classes, which include yoga raves, pole dancing and a workout that aims to make you taller.

Last year the firm saw sales grow from £13 million to £17 million, booking pre-tax profits of £2.4 million.

Gymbox has attracted the interest of several private equity firms, but Mr Hilton said that a deal to sell the firm collapsed following the EU referendum last year.

"We had six private equity firms interested, picked one, had June 24 as the completion date, but then Brexit happened.

"They tried to change the price, understandably I guess, as the country was in turmoil and the PM had just quit."

But the group bounced back, securing further investment from the British Growth Fund, valuing the firm at £60 million.

Mr Hilton and the firm's management hold 20% each, with the BGF holding the remaining 60%.

Mr Hilton was speaking as part of his role as ambassador for the Plusnet Pioneers campaign, a programme aimed at helping start-up business owners realise their ambitions.

The businessman said he got involved in the initiative because he can relate to the tough challenges faced by start-ups today.