Turnover soared at the online fitness apparel retailer Gymshark last year. In the year ended July 31, the company turned over £176 million, more than £73 million more than the previous year – a rise of 71 per cent.
Pre-tax profits also rose at the Solihull-headquartered athleisure brand, to more than £18.4 million, up from £17.5 million last year.
The company achieved these sales by expanding into new global markets by rolling out additional e-commerce websites.
The company is one of the UK’s fastest growing companies but unless you follow Instagram (Gymshark has more than four million followers), or you’re under 30, you would be forgiven for not having heard of the brand, because it doesn’t have a high street retail presence.
In 2012 fitness fanatic Ben Francis 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.
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 their fundamental marketing strategy today.
In three 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 understood his consumer inside out, but at that age you don’t know what you don’t know. I came into the business to add structure and experience.”
The fitness apparel market continues to be strong, but competition is growing with more entrants piling into the market. However, the company remains convinced that Gymshark has huge growth potential and the directors expect the company to continue growing through increasing revenue, orders and customer numbers through the expansion of Gymshark’s e-commerce websites across the world.
Gymshark responded to Brexit by opening a major distribution centre on mainland Europe. Like all other companies, it remains to be seen how it deals with the Coronavirus outbreak.