27 April 2020
Gymshark, the innovative online Solihull-based fitness clothing brand, have been named as having the fastest growing profits among private companies in Britain.
The patrons of Future Faces, the young entrepreneurs’ arm of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), were ranked first in the Sunday Times Profit Track yesterday.
Another Solihull-based Chamber member, Grenade, were ranked 52nd and both companies were praised for their responses to the coronavirus crisis in the interests of their employees and communities.
Gymshark recorded an increase of 156.20 per cent in profits in the year ended July, 2019. The company was founded by Ben Francis, 27, in 2012 when he noticed a gap in the market for gymwear with shape-enhancing, muscle-accentuating contours.
The Sunday Times’ citation says he bought a sewing machine for £200 and his grandmother taught him to use it.
It adds: “A pioneer of a marketing strategy now considered standard practice, he gifted vests, tops and leggings to online influencers – fitness models and bodybuilders – anticipating they would promote the products to their fans.
“The brand has since gone global under chief executive Steve Hewitt, 46, a former Reebok executive who joined in 2015.”
Gymshark’s products are now sold directly to consumers in 180 countries via website in 13 languages.
The company’s profits have rocketed from £1.1 million in 2016 to £18.6 million in 2019 on sales of £176.2 million. About half of Gymshark’s revenue is generated in America and it is opening an office in Denver.
Its first presence in the British high-street was a pop-up store in London’s Covent Garden but it closed early because of the Covid-19 crisis. However, it has launched itself into several projects in response to the pandemic.
It is reported as having no plans to furlough employees and any who can’t work from home are paid their salaries in full while being encouraged to volunteer to help the NHS. Its “refuel” kitchen in Solihull are making healthy meals for frontline workers across the West Midlands.
The brand is also supporting Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital by donating £5 for every #NHSSweatySelfie campaign, supported by the GBCC. The campaign ends on Thursday and will raise £175,000 for the NHS trust.
Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the GBCC, said: “The company is renowned for its smart and strategic use of social media that has helped it go in less than ten years from sewing fitnesswear in a Birmingham garage to competing with the likes of Nike and Adidas.
“Its success is richly deserved and Gymshark’s sweaty selfie promotion is a tribute to its social awareness and business ethos.” To take part in the sweaty selfie initiative, take a picture of yourself exercising and share the photo, with the hashtag #NHSSweatySelfie, on Twitter, Instragram or LinkedIn.
Grenade were ranked 52nd in the Sunday Times Profit Track. The sports nutrition brand recorded a 53.86 per cent increase in profits.
In more than 100 countries professional athletes, fitness enthusiasts and military personnel, says the Sunday Times, are consumers of Grenade’s sport performance and weight management bars and drinks.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, the company, led by Alan Barratt, 43, who co-founded the business in 2009, has been delivering to frontline NHS staff.
Their fat-burning pills are packaged in bottles shaped like hand grenades and the firm claims to sell 140,000 protein bars a day.
It has now diversified into sportswear and profits grew to £7 million in 2018 boosted by a partnership with Marks & Spencer.
Pictured: Ben Francis (left) founder of Gymshark and Anna Assinder, Future Faces manager