LONDON, United Kingdom — UK gym wear company Gymshark has set its sights on rivalling global giants Nike and Adidas after tripling sales and opening its international HQ in Birmingham.
Gymshark is understood to have held talks with advisers over plans for expansion following a bumper year of growth. The last financial year saw sales triple to £41m, while pre-tax profits climbed from £1m to £8m. Estimated to be valued between £300m and £400m, Gymshark expects to bolster sales to £100m for 2018 and £140m by 2019.
Founded by teenager Ben Francis from his parents’ garage in 2012, Gymshark has grown a devoted and engaged fan base of 5.2 million followers on Instagram, has customers in 131 countries around the world and was named the UK’s fastest growing company in 2016. This year, signalling its intent for aggressive expansion, Gymshark unveiled its new international headquarters in Birmingham, which can accommodate up to 800 staff and has been said will create 150 new jobs.
Now 26, Francis has set his sights on challenging sports apparel giants on the global stage. Speaking to TheBusinessdesk, Francis said he wants to be “the UK’s answer to Nike and Adidas”.
“I don’t think the UK has got anything to get behind in the fitness market, so hopefully we are it. The headquarters is just the beginning,” said Francis, also the company’s chief brand officer.
Gymshark’s unprecedented success is largely thanks to its ability to leverage the power of social media and influencer marketing, reinforced by world tours where ambassadors can interact face-to-face with their fans. Currently, the company only sells online via its international websites but has been increasingly operating pop-ups to boost brand awareness, most recently in Birmingham, London, Melbourne and Los Angeles, which drew huge crowds and 10-hour queues.
As high street retailers continue to feel the pinch with consumers shopping online and business rates soaring, new digital businesses such as Gymshark have capitalised. Yet with Lululemon, Sweaty Betty, Bjorn Borg, Fabletics and more players entering the crowded activewear market, it remains to be seen how increasing competition will impact growth and targets of world domination for the likes of Gymshark.
According to Forbes’ 2018 list of The World’s Most Valuable Brands, Nike fell to 18th place with a value of $32 billion and Adidas sit at 68th place with a value of $9.5 billion while Uniqlo, at 96th and $7.5 billion, is the next highest valued “apparel” brand in the world.