Gymshark’s Physical Store: 3 Trends Retailers Can Learn to Help Revive the High Street

Gymshark’s Physical Store: 3 Trends Retailers Can Learn to Help Revive the High Street

November 10, 2022
6 min read

Why Open a Physical Store?

Founded in 2012 as an online-only direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand Gymshark has enjoyed significant success over the years and has grown to sales of over £484.5m. In 2023, Gymshark saw a drop in profits due to being weighed down by one-off costs. Some of this was down to the opening of their new location on Regent Street, however, as sales have been performing well, the brand appears to still be on the right track for growth.

Given the success the brand had online, many questioned why Gymshark needed physical stores. Gymshark enjoys a high level of brand recognition among its primary audience, which mainly consists of individuals below the age of 35. Over 50% of this demographic is aware of the brand. However, the brand’s awareness decreased significantly to a mere one in ten among people aged 45 and above.

A physical store then gives the brand a direct way to grow awareness, and as starts go a flagship shop on one of the UK’s most recognisable streets isn’t a bad one. Additionally, the store has allowed the brand to offer a new side of the business and new experiences to that core audience. 

Before opening, Gymshark talked of the store as being its ‘home’ and a place to round out what the brand stands for. After visiting we can say that the store certainly delivers on this. So what can store-based retailers learn from the Gymshark flagship store?

1. Tap Into Experiential Retail Trends

The store brings to life the functional but fun approach to fitness that Gymshark has developed since 2012, and features a host of experiential elements, from one-to-one personal training stations to in-store Sweat Classes, which will resonate with its core audience of under 35’s desire for more experience-led retail. There are also Refuel Areas, where partner Joe and the Juice provide in-store refreshments and spaces for shoppers to sit and relax, and gain insight on training regimes and products from staff. 
These experiential elements and social spaces are important to modern shoppers, and they are the clear distinction between the online and physical channels. Physical shopping is still a social activity for many people: 60% say visiting a shopping destination is a good way to socialise with friends/family, rising to 71% of under 35s. Equally, one in ten people say they exercise to meet new people, and therefore Gymsharks store hits both points by creating an exciting new environment for shoppers to visit and a place for it to foster a community of fitness enthusiasts.

2. Make the Most of the Functional Elements a Physical Store Provides

The store’s experiential element has been widely regarded as its star attraction. However, from our perspective, the most impressive aspect is the brand’s progressive step into a physical space. As a flagship, there are naturally exclusive ranges, but the store, as a whole, does a good job of bringing those ranges to life. There are dedicated spaces for different aspects of Gymshark’s offering, all with information on how these products can elevate fitness goals.

3. Provide a Quality One-to-One Service

Service is critical within the physical environment: two-thirds of shoppers think good staff knowledge encourages you to go into stores most often. However, it is also an area which has seen a lack of investment and focus from many retailers, and half of shoppers think the standard of customer service in-store is not what it used to be.

For any brand to be successful in the physical space service must be at the heart of its offering, and while Gymshark may have previously been an online-only retailer, it has clearly understood the need for quality one-to-one service. A host of staff are enthusiastically on hand to help, and although there are traditional tills, each staff member is equipped with mobile payment devices which encourages interaction.

New Blood is Critical to the Future of the High Street

So Gymshark’s first foray into physical retailing is far more than a vanity project. It doesn’t necessarily break the mould and there are clear opportunities for the brand to evolve the space to take in more aspects of the brand’s persona. We hope that Regent Street is not a full stop in the brand’s physical adventure, but the start of a journey that reaches out across the UK’s shopping locations.

Encouraging more online-first brands into the physical space is critical for the future of the high street. Some of Gymshark’s competitors have taken on similar endeavours successfully. Lululemon, for example, debuted their first experience-led store in 2019 and Sweaty Betty back in 2017.  Most shoppers say that better quality stores locally would make in-store shopping more appealing, and while there are issues for flagship destinations like Regent Street and neighbouring Oxford Street their current woes pale in comparison to what is facing many shopping destinations across the UK. The high street may have regained the majority share of retail spending in 2022, but compared to pre-pandemic in September 2022 alone sales on the high street were still £3.5 billion lower than they had been in September 2019. There is hope though, as retail staples like Wilko, whom we thought had been wiped from the high street forever in 2023, have announced their comeback for 2024. Additionally, there will be exciting new flagship stores in London, such as Kurt Geiger and Burberry.

The Importance of Thriving High Streets to British Society

The income squeeze is affecting both consumers and businesses alike, and asking businesses to take a gamble on physical space currently is difficult. However, that is why all stakeholders, from retail to landlords to local authorities, with a vested interest in a prospering high street need to lessen barriers to entering the physical space and to take a long-term view of the importance that physical shopping locations have, not just to the retail sector, but to wider British society.

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Nicholas Carroll
Nicholas Carroll

Associate Director – Retail, Nicholas Carroll has a particular flare for the grocery industry but analyses and writes in-depth reports on a range of UK and European retail markets.

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