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Weekly Debrief: Oura’s CEO Departs, Gymshark Opens First Store, Thorne Launches Health Clinic

Welcome to the Fitt Insider Weekly Debrief. Every weekend, we compile the top stories impacting the business of fitness and wellness from the past week.

Here’s what you need to know for December 5, 2021:

  • Oura’s CEO steps down
  • Gymshark to open first retail store
  • Thorne HealthTech enters “well-care”

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Oura’s CEO Exits

Smart ring maker Oura will soon have a new CEO following the departure of its former top executive, Harpreet Singh Rai.

On Friday, Rai announced he is stepping down. In a LinkedIn post, Rai said he had achieved a number of milestones during four and a half years at the company, including:

Power user turned CEO. In 2016, Oura co-founder Kari Kivelä was in New York City, hoping to raise capital for his fledgling startup.

While shopping at a local Whole Foods, Kivelä struck up a conversation with a man wearing an Oura ring. It was the first time he’d seen someone wearing the device outside of the company’s headquarters in Finland.

As luck would have it, that someone was Harpreet Singh Rai — a Wall Street hedge fund manager who recently lost 50lbs using Oura. A huge fan, Rai invested in the company and joined the board. Later, he’d become Oura’s CEO.

Looking ahead: So far, there’s no word on who will fill Rai’s vacancy. But, as the competition in health wearables heats up, Oura will have a new chief at the helm.

Gymshark IRL

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.

Precision Wellness

Thorne HealthTech is pushing into personalized primary care with Thorne Lab, a high-tech “well-care” clinic.

Leveraging data and technology, Thorne hopes to upgrade the routine physical by offering a wellness-focused doctor’s visit, including:

  • Vital signs, blood work, and a 3D body scan
  • Cognitive, strength, dexterity, and balance tests
  • Optional gut microbiome analysis and DNA sequencing

In partnership with Legacy Community Health, the first Thorne Lab location will debut next year in South Texas.

M&A. Founded in 1984, Thorne is a nutritional supplement company pursuing precision wellness.

  • February 2021: Thorne merged with health intelligence company Onegevity to create Thorne HealthTech.
  • May 2021: The newly formed parent company acquired Drawbridge Health, a company focused on blood draws.
  • September 2021: Thorne HealthTech went public in a downsized offering, raising $70M in its listing.

The big picture. From wearable devices to at-home test kits, high-performance health promises to redefine well-being. Along the lines of Thorne Lab, tech-enabled primary care is paving the way for more personalized treatment:

  • In March, Forward Health secured $225M for its network of membership-based preventive primary care clinics, valuing the company at more than $1B.
  • Utilizing its smartwatch, Apple has a bold plan to reimagine healthcare by combining remote monitoring, telehealth services, and in-person visits.
  • Even CrossFit is entering the healthcare arena, launching a primary care service “for CrossFitters, by CrossFitters.”

Looking ahead: Sickcare is failing us, and ambitious healthtech founders are searching for a fix. A work in progress, everything from preventative MRIs to smart toilets are being touted as the key to precision health.

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