Athleticwear Unicorn Gymshark To Open First Retail Store in London

Ben Francis

Gymshark, a UK-born athletic apparel brand valued over $1B, will open its first permanent brick-and-mortar location, signing a 10-year lease in London’s Regent Street shopping district.

A brand built on the backs of social media influencers and digital engagement, the departure from its strictly DTC model highlights the brand’s stated desire for growth.

Built to Win
The 18,000-square-foot flagship space will join lululemon, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and The North Face on one of the most visited and iconic retail boulevards in the United Kingdom.

Despite countless pop-up activations and events since its 2012 founding, this three-level physical storefront is a significant move for the brand. For the first time, Gymshark is creating a mecca for its fervent online community. Alongside its performance gear, the space will play host to an on-site fitness studio and other experiential fixtures.

Sales are a secondary priority for the shop, says founder and CEO Ben Francis:

“The vast majority of the store will not be dedicated to selling Gymshark product… the real purpose of the store needs to be to cultivate the Gymshark community and connect with people.”

The store is expected to open its doors in summer 2022.

Blood in the Water
Gymshark has been busy in the past 18 months.

  • August 2020: Gymshark raised ​​£200M ($266M) at a $1.3B valuation from investment firm General Atlantic.
  • February 2021: The brand unveiled its North American HQ in Denver, joining Hong Kong and original Birmingham offices.
  • July 2021: 29-year-old founder Ben Francis reassumes role of CEO, reporting over £400M ($550M) in sales in the company’s full-year financial report.
  • October 2021: Gymshark was said to be in talks to go public, but Francis has since downplayed the IPO.

Analyzing its earnings, over half of the brand’s sales come from the United States through digital avenues. Seeing its market share rise, the company’s Denver HQ and addition of media-savvy entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk as an advisor to the Gymshark board demonstrate its intention to become a truly global brand.

But they won’t be alone in that fight.

  • Wolverine Worldwide, owners of Merrell and Saucony brands, acquired British apparel maker Sweaty Betty for $410M in August.
  • California activewear upstart Vuori secured $400M at a $4B valuation in October.
  • After stumbles, Outdoor Voices engineered a turnaround to profitability in early 2021 with intention to expand its physical footprint.
  • Ahead of its third-quarter FY21 earnings call on Dec. 9, lululemon’s stock is outperforming the S&P 500, up 31.3% as of the end of November.

Takeaway: It’s clear to see that, with the global activewear market expected to reach $547B by 2024, the biggest players are marking their territory, both digital and IRL.

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