A sportswear retailer that started out with just a screen printing press and a sewing machine in the founder’s bedroom is to open a permanent store in London’s West End.
Ben Francis started Gymshark as a garment decorator in 2012 at the age of 19 with a group of friends from school and has built it up into an international online business valued at over £1 million.
He began by manually printing and sewing fitness garments in the bedroom of his parents’ house in Bromsgrove in the West Midlands after learning to stitch from his grandmother.
Now based in nearby Solihull, Gymshark employs over 500 people and has announced that it is to open its first store in the former three-floor J Crew premises in Regent Street next summer, covering 18,000 square feet. It specialises in fitness clothing and related accessories.
As part of the brand’s marketing and communication strategy, the company is also planning to introduce personalisation and customisation of garments.
It follows a boom in online clothing sales during the Covid pandemic when people were stuck at home. Sales at Gymshark rose by more than 50% to over £400 million in its financial year to July 2021.
Francis remains the majority shareholder in Gymshark but he sold a 21% stake to US private equity firm General Atlantic last year and has appointed an experienced executive chairman, Steve Hewitt, to lead growth.
Announcing the new store in a video, Francis said: “To have started this brand nine years ago in my bedroom in the West Midlands to now have a store here on Regent Street is just honestly mind-blowing.”
He added that he hoped it would inspire other people to build businesses like his own. “If you really put the work in and your surround yourself with brilliant people, and you work together in the right way, then we can all create incredible companies, brands and movements that come with it.”
The store will feature more than just Gymshark, offering products from partners making up the brand’s wider “community”.