Retail phenomenon hits £100m sales in six years

One of the Midlands’ biggest business success stories of the last decade has made a major leap forward in its aspiration to build one of the world’s biggest brands.

Gymshark, which was judged to be the UK’s fastest-growing company in 2016, today opens its new headquarters at IM Properties’ Blythe Valley Park as it commits its long-term future to Birmingham.

A £4m investment in the building will be followed by doubling its 150-strong workforce in the next 12 months. The 42,000 sq ft site has the capacity for at least 650, and possibly up to 800, staff.

The fitness clothing brand was founded by Aston University student Ben Francis, then 19, in 2012 and in 2017 generated £42m sales worldwide. Gymshark says it had budgeted to do £80m but will actually achieve £100m sales in 2018.

“I want us to be UK’s answer to Nike and Adidas,” said Francis, who remains a major shareholder but has the day job of chief brand officer.

“I don’t think the UK has got anything to get behind in the fitness market, so hopefully we are it. This headquarters is just the beginning.”

Gymshark sells through one channel, its own website (although it has 11 international variations), and can only be bought in person at one of its occasional pop-up shops. Most recently it had a temporary presence in Melbourne, Australia, while its Californian pop-up in Los Angeles attracted 10-hour queues. It is also bringing its global pop-up shop tour to Birmingham for the first time next month, to The Warehouse in Digbeth on May 12 and 13.

The brand has become an international phenomenon through social media. Its main accounts on photo sharing site Instagram has 2.1m followers, while its gymsharkwomen account has 1.1m people.

Francis’s personal account, with 124,000 followers, regularly gets 10,000 likes per photo, while his Canadian girlfriend and Gymshark ambassador Robin Gallant achieves five times as many.

Gymshark has signed a 10-year lease for the two-storey office at Blythe Valley Park, which is one of the largest lettings on the M42 Corridor in the past five years.

The IM Properties development last year attracted two 15,000 sq ft prelets from Prologis and Rybrook Holdings and saw PKF Cooper Parry and Abbott Global relocate from outside the borough.