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Gymshark: "As retail gets more digital, we get more physical"

Camilla Rydzek
03 December 2021

Gymshark, the fast-growing, digital first gymwear brand, announced this week that it will open its very first flagship store in London's Regent Street in the summer of 2022, signing a 10-year lease to take over an 18,000 sq ft location formally occupied by J.Crew.

The brand, which was founded by entrepreneur Ben Francis (pictured above on Regent Street), said the new flagship would support its mission to unite its sprawling social media community of 17 million with a space that will offer shopping, events, community hangouts, as well as workout studios and more, with further details to be announced next spring.

Its move into the physical, or IRL, realm (its only dalliance into physical retail before has been via a pop-up) has been led by Global IRL Director, Mitch Healey. caught up with him to hear his insights on what the new physical retail strategy will mean for the fast-growing fitness brand.

It’s a lot of commitment to sign a lease for 10 years. I guess this means you believe the UK retail industry will survive and even thrive?

We’re definitely confident in the future of UK retail. I think it has so much more to offer still. However, I think it’s more of classic example of how, at Gymshark, when others zig, we zag. As retail, and indeed the world, gets more digital, we are getting more physical. However, we wouldn’t do this if we didn’t have absolute confidence in the resilience of UK retail. We’re also delighted to be playing our part in investing in the high street and British retail after such a tough couple of years for so many.

Regents Street is an iconic location as you say, but it’s quite far away from the brand’s origins in Bromsgrove, Birmingham. What made you decide to open your first flagship in the capital?

Bromsgrove and Birmingham is where the brand was born and our headquarters are and always will be here. However, for our first IRL (In Real Life) store we know we needed it to be BIG. When you think of iconic retail destinations, even globally, it doesn’t get much more iconic than Regent Street, so we’re so excited to be here.

You say this store is not going to be like anything we have seen before. That’s probably to be expected as Gymshark’s success is also unprecedented. Yet other fitness apparel brands with retail stores have also introduced free fitness classes and events. What will set Gymshark’s flagship apart?

I can’t give too much away on that at the moment as we’re still developing the store designs. When it comes to what sets us apart, I’d say it’s how we genuinely are community-first. We have the most amazing community here that love to interact with the Gymshark brand. So, while there’s a lot more to Gymshark than just a website, so will allow community members to get closer to their favourite brands and experience the things that online maybe restricts.

For such a young brand you have achieved a lot of growth, can you give us a hint of what we can expect from you in the future?

We always have big aspirations for the brand, both in revenue growth and community growth, and we are always exploring other potential avenues to help us engage with our community. However, for now, I am focussed on getting the business and this store ready for open date. Stay tuned though. I’ve no doubt there will be more to come.

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