BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom — Midlands-based fitness apparel brand Gymshark this week opened the doors to its new 55,000 sq ft gym and innovation hub, as further evidence of the company’s forward-thinking commitment to employee wellness.
In a video on his personal YouTube channel, founder Ben Francis showed off the facility’s two fitness studios, a vast state-of-the-art weights room and CrossFit rig, indoor running track and outdoor strongman yard, all made available for Gymshark’s 300-strong staff plus two guests each at their Birmingham HQ.
“I genuinely think this is a gamechanger for the business,” said Francis, when unveiling facility dubbed The Gymshark Lifting Club (GSLC). “We were paying out a lot for our team members and staff to have gym memberships everywhere else. It was only when we sat down and realised just how much we were paying out that we realised it would go part way to building our own gym.”
Earlier this year Sean Espinasse, lead designer at design and build company Oktra who also built their neighbouring HQ, revealed the space would include a studio for the new Gymshark fitness app, a 100-person auditorium, an R&D factory, several high tech photographic studios and a 20,000 sq ft gym.
The facility also includes an innovation centre and production facility, allowing the company to create new products on-site to speed up sampling time.
“We have such an innovative, forward-thinking mindset at Gymshark,” Francis said. “It’s great to have [this innovation centre]here. It gives us a huge opportunity to innovate in seamless [clothing]which is an area we really think is the future of fitness wear.
“Gymshark has made its name in seamless. It’s an area of product development that we’re really passionate about. Having that innovation right here next door to our headquarters is vital and so exciting.”
— Oktra (@Oktra__) August 13, 2019
As one of the UK’s fastest-growing fashion companies, which hit a £500 million valuation in April, Gymshark has had to scale up its business rapidly since launching in 2012.
Yet throughout, the company has taken steps to support the wellness of its quickly expanding workforce. In October 2016 the brand partnered with Perkbox, Europe’s fastest-growing employee experience platform, and recently reported that 91% of its 300 UK-based employees use its services.
The platform hosts a range of retail benefits, including discounted cinema tickets, free coffee, savings on tech products, free mobile phone insurance, discounted airport parking, travel savings and discounted experience days.
Gymshark offers employees other in-house initiatives such as financial education in partnership with HSBC. This includes workshops, focusing on areas like budgeting, and offering one-to-one appointments to discuss financial queries.
The organisation works with Unmind, a platform to help support mental health and tackle wellness issues, creating tailored campaigns to help employees with issues such as tiredness.
In 2018 and again this year Gymshark also partnered with Innovation Birmingham to set up the #LiftYourBusiness incubator, providing business support for digital tech SMEs innovating in the West Midlands.
Gymshark’s commitment to its employees’ physical, emotional and financial wellness is in stark contrast to the working conditions allegedly uncovered at major corporations such as Amazon and Sports Direct in recent years and reflects an increasing commitment to improved workplace wellness practices globally.
Last year’s report by the Global Wellness Institute suggested an unwell, unproductive and disengaged workforce is costing 10-15% of global economic output. However, it also estimated the value of workplace wellness as a sector to have grown by 4.8% to a $48 billion-sized chunk of the $4.2 trillion global wellness industry.
Amanda Webb, head of people projects at Gymshark, says: “Employee benefits and wellbeing is fundamental to us at Gymshark, particularly as we are growing rapidly! Having the right partners and platforms helps us deliver our physical, mental and financial wellbeing agenda.
“However, at Gymshark, we don’t stop at delivery, we continually review our data and communications to ensure our benefits are relevant and utilised.”
In April, Gymshark came second in the Sunday Times BDO Profit Track which ranks the UK’s top 100 private companies with the fastest-growing profits over the last three years, with annual profit growth of 152%.
Moving up 44 places from 2018, runner-up Gymshark made £18.1m in profit last year on sales of £103.2m across 178 countries.
In 2016 the company revised its structure with co-founder Ben Francis becoming the majority shareholder of a new holding company Clade Group Ltd, with the remaining shares split between Steve Hewitt, Paul Richardson and co-founder Lewis Morgan, who stepped down as Gymshark company director, becoming the second-largest shareholder with 20%.
In May, a statement from the Solihull-headquartered Clade Group about annual profits and plans for the new gym and innovation hub, read: “The company continued to aggressively grow its sales and profit throughout the year across all its key territories worldwide.
“The focus for the business was to expand into key new markets by rolling out additional e-commerce websites, all focused around having a local execution plan and thus capitalising on the current established D2C model.
“The company recognises that attracting, developing and retaining talent, while growing the company’s unique culture, has been pivotal to the success of the brand and will continue to be paramount in the years to come.
“Investment will continue to increase resource, as well as develop and retain talent with a focus upon health and wellbeing.
“Tangible developments are intended to provide world-class facilities to the company to enable research and development, increased innovation and additional cutting-edge creative output.
“Overseas developments in the forthcoming year include expanding to new markets through the roll-out of international e-commerce stores.”