With a community of 5.4 million fans across social media and global sales of over £100 million, CEO Steve Hewitt not only steers a fitness empire, but harnesses the power of the Gymshark brand to bring in a packed-out standing room only talk at the Internet Retailing Expo 2019.
Talking to his audience of industry colleagues, Hewitt spoke about how Gymshark – the infamous fitness apparel and accessories brand – have created a loyal community of fans that are never viewed as ‘customers’; ‘they are our community, our fans’. The refreshing retailer ethos exudes people and culture not only at the heart of its audience but within the organisation itself. The People Team and Customer Experience Team are the reinvention of HR and Customer Services and an example of the millennial shake-up of the culture of an organisation; 85% of employees are under the age of 28 and mirror the target audience of 18-25.
With founder Ben Francis being 19 when he created the brand back in 2012, he is one of many entrepreneurs that are re-shaping the retail sector and inspiring and influencing the younger generations. With the high street and long-established UK brands falling like dominoes, one by one, are brands missing the innovation and fresh thinking approach by not creating an environment where Millennials and Generation Z can guide these brands to the way consumers now want to shop? What number of Millennials and Generation Z are in influential, key business decision-making roles in our current retail sector?!
Identifying and responding to a need in the market, Gymshark have successfully and poignantly demonstrated that retailers can also have a greater purpose than to make a business owner glorifyingly wealthy. ‘We exist to create the tools that help people unlock their full, incredible potential and put their ideas into action’. Their motivating and inspiring ethos exudes the why, how, what theory of Simon Sinek and actively demonstrates that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!
With Generation Z spending on average 3 hours per day on social media, brands such as Gymshark have created a community that identifies with a generation looking to be inspired and motivated by their peers and a like-minded friend group. Hewitt explains, ‘we have a less call to action approach with our community. It’s all about being inclusive’. By removing this customer and retailer mindset and creating a community mindset with a greater purpose than selling and buying, this can clearly ignite a retail success story within the current doom and gloom of the sector.
Skimming over the turnover growth target earlier in the talk (from £100 million to £182 million), Hewitt ends his talk on a notable and refreshingly ironic play on people and the future of such a pioneering brand – talking about currently having 150 vacancies against their future growth model, he so eloquently explains, ‘we’d rather have a hole, than employ an asshole!’.
Maybe this is the success of the future of retail!