Millennials desert Dubai super gyms in ‘Dodgeball’ rerun

Small independent fitness clubs are springing up in Dubai to challenge more established chains. (Reuters)
Updated 10 July 2017
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Millennials desert Dubai super gyms in ‘Dodgeball’ rerun

DUBAI: Millennials living in Dubai are turning their rippled backs on big gym chains in search of a more sociable workout closer to home.
It has led to a surge in smaller studios offering spin, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and boot-camp sessions.
The trend threatens the dominance of large fitness chains, which have expanded rapidly across the UAE over the last decade.
It is a narrative that could have been plucked from the 2004 comedy movie “Dodgeball,” which casts the Average Joe protagonists against Globo Gym.
Alison Ramsay, a director of Smart Fitness, based in the Jumeirah Lake Towers district of Dubai, says gyms are no longer about flexing your biceps in the mirror.
Jumeirah Lake Towers is home to more than a dozen small independent gyms specializing in everything from Pilates to pole-dancing.
“We describe ourselves as (a) boutique gym. It’s very personal and social, not posey,” she said. “More people are coming to gyms to look for a social experience and to meet like-minded people. They don’t want to join a big corporate gym and do the same boring workout.”
Set up five years ago, Smart Fitness is one of the older independent fitness clubs in the area, which is home to thousands of expatriates, many of whom can be seen in the early mornings and evenings exercising outdoors.
Millennial tenants seeking to live, work and play in the same location are driving demand for smaller clubs, says property broker Core Savills.
“This has led to a spike in inquiry levels for retail within office buildings,” the broker said. “Boutique workout studios, conveniently located within commercial buildings, usually offer innovative and intense workout classes in a structured 45-minute format.”
Smaller gyms are also able to generate better returns, paying even higher rents because of their more limited space requirements.
Core Savills says bigger gyms may only be profitable paying rents of up to 100 dirhams ($27) per square foot, compared to a boutique brand paying up to 300 dirhams per square foot but for a much smaller space.
That is good news for commercial landlords of empty units typically located on the ground floor of residential tower blocks dotted around the city.
The UAE retail sector is expected to come under further pressure over the next two years with the addition of 900,000 square meters of space, according to data from estate agency Knight Frank.
Fitness First, the world’s largest privately owned health club group, is the market leader in the UAE with 33 clubs nationwide, most of them in Dubai. The group was not immediately available for comment.


Banks boost Saudi stock market, Qatar hit by sell-off

Updated 1 min 59 sec ago
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Banks boost Saudi stock market, Qatar hit by sell-off

  • MSCI last week said it would include MSCI Saudi Arabia in its emerging-markets index
  • Qatar’s index was down 2 percent, with 17 of its 20 stocks sliding

BENGALURU: Saudi Arabia’s stock market rose sharply on Tuesday, leading gains in most major Gulf bourses amid a global rally after Washington temporarily eased trade restrictions imposed last week on China’s Huawei. Qatar dropped due to a wide sell-off.
The Saudi index increased 1.66 percent, with Al Rajhi Bank adding 2.2 percent and Saudi Basic Industries up 3.3 percent.
The “Middle East today is following the positive lead from global markets. Local sentiment is also better as evidenced by the strong moves in small cap stocks,” said Vrajesh Bhandari, senior portfolio manager at Al Mal Capital.
“We expect Saudi Arabia to continue its upward trend until at least the MSCI effective date May 28,” added Vrajesh. “Thereafter, investors need to be selective and follow a bottom up-approach. Overall, we find better value in UAE and Egypt.”
MSCI last week said it would include MSCI Saudi Arabia in its emerging-markets index, effective May 28, a move that could draw billions of dollars into the market.
Saudi International Petrochemical closed 3.4 percent higher. The firm completed the merger of equals with Sahara Petrochemical, which delisted on May 20.
Qatar’s index was down 2 percent, with 17 of its 20 stocks sliding.
The Middle East’s largest lender, Qatar National Bank, dropped 2.4 percent, while Mesaieed Petrochemical Holding plunged 10 percent, snapping a six-day winning streak triggered by the stock inclusion in MSCI’s index.
Egypt’s blue-chip index gained 1.7 percent as most of its stocks rose, with Market heavyweight Commercial International Bank gaining 0.9 percent.
El Sewedy Electric jumped 5.9 percent after it partnered with General Authority For Suez Canal Economic Zone to establish a new company with issued capital of 1 billion Egyptian pounds ($58.82 million), in which the firm will own 49 percent.
Abu Dhabi’s index closed 1.1 percent higher, led by a 1.3 percent increase in the country’s largest lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank.
Dana Gas jumped 4.1 percent after the energy firm said it had started drilling operations at Merak-1 well, offshore Egypt.
National Marine Dredging soared 13.9 percent after last week reporting a higher first-quarter earnings.
The Dubai index rose 1 percent as all but one of its real estate stocks rose.
Emaar Properties, Dubai’s largest listed-developer, increased 2.9 percent while its units Emaar Malls and Emaar Development were up 2.3 percent and 3 percent respectively.
The UAE said on Tuesday that it will grant 6,800 foreign investors permanent residency under a new “Golden Card” system after they invested a combined 100 billion dirhams ($27.23 billion) in the Gulf state.
National Cement Company was up 1.7 percent after news it had bought ARM Cement’s Kenyan assets for $50 million.
Arabtec Holding rebounded 2.1 percent, snapping four straight sessions of losses on weak first-quarter earnings.