Gymshark is the UK’s most ambitious new gymwear brand and it’s taking the industry by storm
Interview by Nicky Godding
Fasten your seatbelt. This is retail for the 21st century. You won’t find Gymshark on the high street, unless someone’s wearing it.
You won’t find it on soulless edge-of-town retail parks either. The only place you can buy Gymshark now is online. This brand sells direct to the consumer, with a shop window on social media: Lots and lots on social media.
Gymshark is the UK’s fastest growing brand and it’s based at Redditch in Worcestershire. Launched five years’ ago by Ben Francis, just 19 at the time, it’s now generating annual sales of over £13 million with projected sales of £40 million this year – and £80 million the year after. Crazy? I know.
It’s an incredible story. In 2012 fitness fanatic Ben started making and selling gymwear with his university friends. They felt there was no sportswear which reflected their personalities, so they did it themselves, spending hours on a sewing machine and screen printer. And boy did they hit a rich seam of demand.
As a teenager, Ben had built websites (his first fully functioning website sold license plates), then he moved on to computer development, creating fitness apps. So Gymshark’s website was born. Sending their products to YouTube fitness stars they admired, they quickly learned the benefits of online influencer marketing, which remains the company’s fundamental marketing strategy today.
years’ Gymshark was achieving a turnover of £4 million, but success was
catching up with them and there were issues with product and on time delivery.
As CEO Steve Hewitt, who joined the business in 2015, explains: “99.9% of
people of their age and experience would have failed, but Ben was determined.
He also understands his consumer inside out. He is that consumer and lives the
brand, but at that age you don’t know what you don’t know. I came into the
business to add structure and experience.”
Steve asked Ben: Do you want to be a lifestyle brand in Bromsgrove, or do you want to become a global player? “Ben said he wanted to impact and inspire as many people as possible, so that’s what we’re going out of our way to do.”
Athleisure: the fastest growing retail trend in the
roots are in the gym, but it’s now developed into athleisure, or activewear,
probably the fastest growing retail trend in the world. The company’s target
market is those aged between 18-25, whose lives revolve around fitness, fashion
overarching focus, full stop, is to understand the 18-25 age group in our
sector better than any brand in the world,” says Steve. “The way we do that is
by being content-led.” For the Millennial generation, it’s all about the
experience and emotion.
“Price matters but more importantly it’s about being part of something. Our followers are very loyal, but they can also be very fickle. If we can’t be bothered, or seem to be taking our success and customers for granted. They’ll be quick to call us out.”
to do that on social media. Gymshark knows its room for error is very small,
but Steve’s view is that if you look after the brand and its community, the
numbers look after themselves – if you have commercial common sense.
Gymshark also pulls in 14 year olds, its customers of the future. “They are our Young Sharks, our next point of entry,” says Steve. And of course, there are the 35-44 year old fitness enthusiasts.
90% of the brand’s consumer interaction comes through Instagram. As I’m writing this, Gymshark has 1.4 million Instagram followers and a total of 3.6 million across all social platforms. They have a great customer care team who are fast to respond to any enquiries.
A brand for Millennials
Gymshark is a Millennials business. “We say that our legacy is not our bank balance. We want to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Steve. This might sound trite, a bit bleeding heart – but he means it.
Ben says he would rather know he’s affected people’s lives positively rather than having £1 million in the bank or a Lamborghini.
Steve adds: “Ben’s really humble. He could go on any holiday or drive any car he wants. But as a Board we have gone out of our way to ensure he stays real. And he’s up for that.”
Gymshark sees itself as aspirational and affordable.
The high-quality photography, videography filmed across the globe and the carefully-chosen brand ambassadors deliver the first, the second is delivered by its ‘direct to consumer’ model, cutting away retail outlets which need their own margins.
Manufacturing is done in the Far East but the company is hoping to move some to Turkey and Portugal. It would love to have some manufacturing in the UK if it can find the right sourcing partner and is putting significant money into research and development (“Art plus science equals wonder”, says Steve).
Steve is fizzing with ambition: “We have one chance. We want to make awesome product. We want to have owned IP.
“We are visionary in building a cult community, we want to be visionary in other areas too: wearable tech is on our radar. We want to get closer to our consumer.”
The vision also involves physical retail, but on Gymshark’s terms. “We want to take the brand to key cities across the globe.
“We did Mercer St, Manhattan, New York, just up from Lululemon and Nike Lab. Two hours before we opened a pop up store, there was a queue four blocks long. London is next.”
If the global opportunity for Gymshark is 10/10, Steve says the brand is currently at 2/10.
There is phenomenal growth potential, but Steve, Ben and their fellow directors are adamant the business mustn’t be complacent.
“When we launched our flex leggings this year we sold out of a large quantity with a proposed four-week cover in 11 minutes.
“We had teams high fiving but we said, let’s look at categories that are not growing as fast and put as much focus into those.”
At 60% of sales, the United States is Gymshark’s biggest market.
The UK comes in second at 25%, followed by the EU at 15%. Australia and Canada are growing markets – Gymshark is switching on its Australian online store in July. A French online store opens in October, followed by Russia, India, Japan and South America.
Women’s apparel represented 9% of the business two years ago, this has now risen to 65%. “We have to stay relevant,” says Steve. “Being relevant to an 18-25-year-old in a few years will be different from what it is now. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re up for the challenge.”
There is no exit plan. “None whatsoever. Our view is keep on doing what we’re doing and keep it fun.”
The lowdown on Gymshark CEO Steve Hewitt
Steve Hewitt grew up in the North East of England. Following a degree in sports business at Manchester he headed stateside to work, ending up running the commercial side of Adidas’ Reebok brand (softening his Geordie accent so they could understand him).
He headed up Reebok’s commercial interests in Europe. “Big numbers, a lot of travel, a lot of pressure. I left for one reason only, my wife and I had a little daughter and I was doing around 300,000 air miles a year. It was a work/ family lifestyle decision. I wanted to see my kids as they grew up.”
He was head-hunted to run Hartlebury-based Tiger Turf, which makes artificial grass for sporting and other markets. When he arrived, it was turning over £3 million a year. He helped take it to £25 million turnover in three years, after which it got sold to a Dutch consortium.
He met Gymshark when he was doing consultancy work with SMEs in the area, and the rest is history in the making.
Quick facts on Gymshark
Gymshark is a fitness apparel and accessories brand, manufacturer and on line retailer. It is currently the fastest growing retail brand in the UK, supported by over three million highly engaged social media followers and customers in 131 countries.
Head office: Redditch
Revenue: £13 million in 2016 (projected £40 in 2017)
Vaccitech, an Oxford University
spinout company developing a universal flu vaccine, among other vaccine-related
products, has secured £20m ($27.1m) in Series A financing.
The round was co-led by new investors GV, Sequoia China, and existing backer Oxford Sciences Innovation, which manages a £600m fund aimed at Oxford University spinouts. Neptune Ventures joined in participation. In total, Vaccitech has now raised £30m since inception in 2016.
Vaccitech is currently a clinical stage company, with six total products that are based on inducing cellular immune responses using non-replicating viral vectors for treatment or prophylaxis against diseases at various stages. The CD8+ T-cell responses induced by the proprietary platform are among the highest reported in any human trials.
The portfolio of the company includes:
· A universal influenza vaccine in evaluation in a Phase 2b efficacy trial, in which 862 people are enrolled in the first year of a two-year study. At present, there are currently between three to five million new cases of influenza each year, resulting in 250,000 to 500,000 deaths per annum, mostly in the elderly population. Vaccitech’s universal vaccine recognises the conserved proteins of the virus and is active against all influenza A strains, including avian ones.
· Vaccitech’s prostate cancer therapeutic is current at Phase I, and has shown high level immune T cell responses to the self-antigen 5T4, indicating strong potential applicability of the vaccine platform to cancer in general. A Phase 2 study combining the vaccine platform with a checkpoint inhibitor will begin in metastatic prostate disease in early 2018.
· A Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) prophylactic is currently beginning Phase 1 studies at Oxford University.
· A Human Papillomavirus (HPV) therapeutic, a Hepatitis B (HBV) therapeutic, and another infectious disease asset are in late preclinical development
The company, spun out by Oxford University Innovation in 2016, is commercialising the research of vaccine development specialists Adrian Hill and Sarah Gilbert, who developed the underpinning technology at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute. The work of Hill and Gilbert attracted Thomas Evans as its CEO, who relocated from the US to the UK for the role. Evans is a vaccine veteran bringing with him over a 15 years’ experience at Vical, as Global Head of Infectious Diseases Research at Novartis, and as CSO and CEO at the tuberculosis vaccine-focused biotech Aeras. Vaccitech has also added vaccine veteran Pierre Morgon to its Board of Directors.
Currently based at the Oxford Science Park, Vaccitech will use the funding to expand its business, develop its lab structure, and to push its influenza and prostate cancer programmes through Phase II by the end of 2019, and move three other programs into the clinic.
Tom Evans, Chief Executive Officer at Vaccitech, said:
“When you look at the 250 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B globally, or the number of people killed by the flu each year, it becomes clear just how much potential impact Vaccitech’s portfolio of vaccine products could have on the world. You add Oxford into the mix, where you have unprecedented ability to do advance products through outstanding vaccine science and tremendous translational medicine capability, and Vaccitech is clearly well positioned to have an important impact on global health.”
Tom Hulme, General Partner at GV, added:
“Vaccitech's world class team have achieved an incredible amount with relatively little funding to date - the T-cell responses to the company's viral vector platform are among the highest that have been achieved in man - we look forward to it being applied to tackle multiple human diseases.”
Farming and the environment must go hand-in-hand and producing quality, home-grown food is critical to the future of the country, the NFU says
It follows publication of the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan. Theresa May revealed details of the long-awaited and wide-ranging 150-page strategy during a keynote speech in south-west London.
Farmers manage 70% of the nation’s iconic countryside and take their environmental responsibilities seriously. 10,000 football pitches worth of flower habitat, creating homes for wildlife, have been planted while more than 30,000km of hedgerows have been planted or restored by farmers.
The NFU says farming is in a unique position to deliver for the environment as long as there are productive and viable businesses – where food is at the heart.
NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “Over the past four decades, farmers have carried out a huge amount of work to encourage wildlife, as well as benefitting the landscape, soil and water and reducing their impact on the climate.
“Farming also offers innovative solutions to wider environmental challenges. For instance the Government’s current concern with plastics highlighted by the BBC’s brilliant Blue Planet series could be met with substituting synthetic plastics with farm produced biodegradable starch-based packaging.
“But there must be a coherent approach. British farming has a unique role in producing a safe, affordable and high quality supply of food as well as protecting, maintaining and enhancing 70% of the nation's iconic countryside.
“That only remains feasible, however, as long as farmers run sustainable and viable businesses. We provide the raw materials for a domestic food industry that employs 3.8m people and which, as the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, generates £112bn in value for the UK economy. This is why we welcomed the Secretary of State’s commitment last week to create a national food policy and his recognition that food is at the heart of viable farming businesses.
“It’s vital therefore that a holistic approach is taken and the environment plan must go hand-in-hand with a future food policy, where measures for protecting and enhancing the environment are joined up with policies to improve productivity and manage volatility to ensure that we have profitable, productive and progressive farm businesses post-Brexit.”v
The sale of Worcestershire-based Countrywide Farmers, the farming and equestrian retailer, to Mole Valley Farmers Ltd, which was expected to have been completed by the end of January, has been delayed. The sale is subject to review by the Competition and Markets Authority. A new completion date of March 16th has been set.
In the meantime, the company has sold off its Countrywide LPG business to Dublin-based DCC, an international sales, marketing and support services group. It operates in four divisions: LPG, Retail & Oil, Healthcare and Technology.
In a statement Countrywide said this is being progressed to ensure the business maintains sustainable value within its current going concern status.
DCC plc will acquire the trade and assets of the LPG business for £28.75 million, with completion targeted before the end of March 2018.
Countrywide LPG supplies bulk and cylinder LPG to domestic, agricultural and commercial customers in Britain. The business sells approximately 20,000 tonnes of LPG annually.
Countrywide Chief Executive Julie Wirth said: “We are delighted to have reached an agreement with DCC plc to acquire our LPG business. This represents an excellent opportunity for the Countrywide LPG brand to continue to grow and flourish within a leading international sales, marketing and support services group which has a strong LPG division currently operating in nine countries across Europe.”
Share trading of Countrywide remains suspended in light of the ongoing strategic developments taking place within the business.
Countrywide operates around 53 stores and runs a fully operational website. It has over 700 members of staff. The business launched in 1902 when Beckford Farmers merged with Winchcombe, Toddington & Cotswold Farmers Association to form West Midland Farmers Association Limited.
Oxford-based games developer and publisher Rebellion has bought Warwick-based Radiant Worlds, the development studio founded in 2013 by industry veterans Andrew Oliver, Philip Oliver and Richard Smithies, for an undisclosed sum.
Radiant Worlds' 70 employees have decades of experience across hundreds of titles, adding their industry expertise and creative excellence to Rebellion’s award-winning development teams.
Radiant Worlds will become Rebellion Warwick, joining Rebellion Liverpool as a sister studio to the company’s headquarters in Oxford. Rebellion Warwick will immediately transition on to current projects – including the 1930s co-op adventure Strange Brigade revealed last year - and in the future will contribute to projects based on Rebellion’s beloved IP such as Sniper Elite, Evil Genius, Battlezone and more. Founders Philip and Andrew Oliver will remain at Rebellion Warwick.
The acquisition completes a landmark 12 months for Rebellion which recently celebrated its 25th birthday. In 2017 the company successfully self-published Sniper Elite 4, announced its next major new IP in Strange Brigade, and released a remaster of the BAFTA-nominated classic Rogue Trooper. Its stewardship of cutting edge comic 2000 AD (also celebrating its 40th birthday) saw renewed focus, opening up the 2000 AD universe to external game developers and announcing Mega-City One – an ambitious TV series set in world of Judge Dredd.
Now employing over 300 staff, Rebellion says this acquisition cements its reputation as one of the UK’s most exciting multi-media companies.
“To bring such great people to the company, just after our 25th birthday, is quite remarkable,” said Rebellion CEO and co-founder Jason Kingsley OBE. “It’s been a great year for us and we have a lot of plans to help make 2018, 2019 and beyond bigger and even greater years for Rebellion.”
Philip Oliver, one of the founders of Radiant Worlds, said: “We’ve known the Kingsleys for many years and have always had enormous respect for them and the company they’ve built. We know that our core values of creativity, passion, and ambition are mirrored by Rebellion, and we’re excited to be part of their amazing team.”
Richard Smithies, Radiant Worlds’ outgoing Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, is also delighted at the next chapter for the developer: “We’ve managed to build one of the financially strongest and most talented development studios in the UK. I wish everyone now working with Rebellion every success for the future.”
Aston Martin sold 5,117 sports cars last year amid sell-out demand for its DB11 model and special vehicles including the Vanquish Zagato and Aston Martin Vantage GT8.
Retail sales, which saw a 58% year-on-year increase, outpaced wholesale supply (up 38%) and the Group now expects to exceed its previous full-year guidance of adjusted EBITDA of at least £180 million on revenues of more than £840 million.
Dr Andy Palmer, Aston Martin President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “We continue to perform ahead of expectations, in financial performance and in meeting our targets for the DB11 and special vehicles. This strong sales performance shows that our Second Century transformation plan is building momentum. Phase Two of the programme will be largely completed in 2018 with the introduction of the Vanquish replacement and production of the new Vantage, contributing to continued sustainable profitability at Aston Martin.”
In 2017, Warwickshire-headquartered Aston Martin achieved its highest full-year sales volumes in nine years, driven by rising demand in North America, the UK and China. This sales performance comes amidst continued strong orders for the DB11, the Vanquish S and for special models that more than doubled year on year to 250 vehicles.
As part of the Second Century Plan, Aston Martin is expanding its UK manufacturing footprint. The company has resumed output of special vehicles, notably the DB4GT Continuation, at its Newport Pagnell facility for the first time since 2007. And construction work is continuing at the new St Athan facility in Wales, due for completion in 2019, ahead of production of the new DBX SUV.
Aston Martin will report 2017 full-year earnings in March 2018.
The Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), supported by the European Regional Development Fund, is officially open for business, with the first loans being awarded to growing businesses across the Midlands. The MEIF is delivered by the British Business Bank and the Fund is investing £120 million of debt finance and small business loans to eligible firms. This initial tranche of funding is part of a wider £250 million of resource targeted towards the region’s start-ups, scale-ups and SME community.
Loans have been made across the Midlands with four companies benefitting from finance to date to support their growth aspirations:
Leicester-based BCME, owner of specialist education provider Echo Factory has received finance from MEIF, which will be deployed to market its degree-level music courses, maximising student numbers and empowering the institution to become self-sustaining.
Direct Digital Controls, in Brierley Hill, West Midlands is a business that specialises in the installation and maintenance of energy and environmental control systems. With the MEIF investment, the firm is poised to take on four new employees, train an additional apprentice and expand its growing wired and lighting controls divisions.
Nottingham-based medical devices company Olberon, has produced a cannulation device that is used in the medical industry. The funding will have a significant impact on commercial sales globally, by allowing them to develop existing links with distributors, and by helping them market more effectively.
Milton Keynes’ Renewable ON Ltd, a clean energy specialist supplies and installs quality bespoke solar powered LED outdoor and street lighting solutions to both public and private sector. Primarily the loan funds are required for cash flow including stock, wages and marketing to fulfil initial orders.
Nick Pulley, Chair of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund’s Strategic Oversight Board, said:
“It is heartening to see the first businesses tap into the opportunities presented by the Midlands Engine Investment Fund and having built a strong pipeline of deals, the fund is well set to accelerate this progress. SMEs that are in the market for external finance and have growth aspirations should check the website and seek out fund managers to find out how the MEIF could take their business to the next level.”
Patrick Magee, Chief Commercial Officer at the British Business Bank, commented:
“Our aim is to make finance markets work better for smaller businesses and address regional inequalities in funding. Through our work with the MEIF, we’re poised to support investment, growth and job creation throughout the Midlands.”
Bob Taylor, Director at Direct Digital Controls, said:
“Securing finance from MEIF is a pivotal step in the future of our business growth, giving us the backing we need to expand and reach out to new customers UK-wide. Meaningful expansion requires extra talent and an investment in new business, we’re now ready to take the next step.”
The MEIF will invest in debt finance and small business loans, ranging from £25,000 to £1.5m, through appointed Fund Managers – Enterprise Loans East Midlands, BCRS Business Loans and Maven Capital Partners. For more information on the funding available, please visit www.meif.co.uk
The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.
Apprentice George Russell’s name will be in lights for years to come having become the first ever electrician to pass the new electrotechnical trailblazer apprenticeship standard.
Twenty-two-year-old George said he was nervous before the gruelling three-day practical assessment, especially when he realised that his assessor was also being assessed as it was the first time anyone had sat the new style end-point assessment.
But a committed period of revision and support from the team at Clarkson Evans Training, meant George was fully prepared for the assessment, passing with flying colours, and first time to boot!
The new electrotechnical apprenticeship standard was introduced in response to the Richard Review of Apprenticeships, which recommended improvements should be made to the assessment of all apprenticeships to make them more robust and to better meet the needs of industry.
Simon Kingwell, Production Director at Clarkson Evans said: “We are delighted that one of our apprentices is the first to qualify as an electrician under the new electrotechnical apprenticeship standard.
“George is a hardworking member of staff who, since qualifying, has already been trusted to mentor an apprentice and lead his own team. We’re confident he’ll have a bright future in the electrical industry,” added Mr Kingwell.
George said: “I’m not a very confident person and so I’m pleased that I didn’t let my nerves get the better of me during the assessment, especially as there were so many people in the room watching what I was doing. I’m thrilled to have qualified and I’m looking forward to further developing my skills at Clarkson Evans.”
Carolyn Mason, Chief Executive of National Electrotechnical Training, the charity that administers the end-point assessment for all qualifying electricians said: “We were delighted to witness George pass the new-style assessment and also complete the new apprenticeship standard in the process. These are two important ‘firsts’ for the industry and we look forward to rolling out the new assessment even further in 2018.”
George is one of 116 apprentices at Clarkson Evans to have qualified as electricians in 2017.
Clarkson Evans has experienced significant growth since the company was established 36 years ago. Now the company has over 800 staff and takes on apprentices across its network of 17 branches.
Last year the company wired one in 10 new homes built across England and Wales for national house builders such as Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon Homes, Barratt and David Wilson.