Ben Francis, founder and director, Gymshark
1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
The biggest opportunity for Gymshark at the moment is to harness the potential of GSHQ, our new Birmingham-based office. The 42,000 sq ft space gives us the opportunity to expand our workforce to help us continue on the growth trajectory we’re currently on – we’re looking to double the number of Gymshark employees in the next 12 months.
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Being global at a local level. We want to reach our customers through their local markets, in a way that’s relevant to them. At the same time, we are committed to growth across the world. We are still in the process of balancing this.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
I would have invested in the back end of the Gymshark business sooner – it wasn’t until a couple of years into the business that I realised the importance of this.
4. What is the future of the physical store and the high street?
Gymshark is successful thanks to retail, and just because we operate online, as a business we do not overlook the importance of physical shopping experiences. It’s why we have hosted a number of temporary pop-up shops around the world – from London to Melbourne – and drawn crowds in their thousands.
We have worked hard to make our online shopping channel a seamless and enjoyable experience for our customers and are proud that we are able to operate through only one channel. For me, it’s obvious that shops and the high street have a definite place in the retail industry’s future, but for us it would need to be an evolution of the current Gymshark offer.
5. What technology-related plans have you got for the next 12 months?
We’re working non-stop to ensure that Gymshark is at the top of its game and that our website and online store meet all of our customers’ demands. We currently have 11 international sites, and plan to get this up to 25 by 2020 – it’s a serious technological commitment and is a core part of our expansion strategy. We are always on the look out for the brightest minds to keep our technology at the forefront, and our new home at GSHQ has created the space for us to welcome new recruits to our tech team.
This is an area I’m really passionate about and will be looking to create something game changing in the future.
6. With the issue of digital wildfire how do you understand and control your growing digital landscape?
Gymshark is known for its engagement with social and online audiences, and we’ve taken the time to truly understand our audience and to learn how to benefit from and reap the rewards of a strong digital presence. In this day and age, if you’re not in control of your own digital landscape, you’re in trouble.
This is one in an ongoing series of Q&A’s with individuals that are featured in the annual ‘Retail Insider Movers & Shakers in Retail Top 100’ report.