How did Gymshark’s Strategy make them a Unicorn brand?

Lotte Muir gives her thoughts on the current strategic position of Gymshark… 🏃

6 min read

By Lotte Muir
Person stands on rocks looking out to sea

Gymshark is a brand that has been able to grow exponentially by following a simple strategic formula. Find out how they did it.…

Gymshark is a fitness apparel & accessories brand, manufacturer and online retailer based in the United Kingdom. They focus on selling men and woman’s sportswear that is designed to be fashionable but also have high performance.

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The British brand was founded by Ben Francis and Lewis Morgan in their garage in 2011 when they were both 19 years old.

Ben had been selling T-shirts he’d customised as part of his A-Level art project, and what started as a side-hustle, quickly grew into a multi-million-pound business.

The company started with Francis screen printing products in his garage but rapidly grew, with customers in 131 countries.

They are primarily an online retailer selling through their own website,, as well
In Ben’s own words, he answers two important questions…

Q: What has been the most important ingredient to Gymshark’s success?

A: "We’re at a point where we’re like, ‘Is it our user-generated content? Is it our product? Is it our social growth? Is it our eCommerce site?’ There is no silver bullet. It’s about bringing all of those things together. It’s about driving traffic from all of those different places, whether that be through influencer marketing or Facebook or Instagram into the website; whether that be using your own owned media to drive engagement on a social media strategy to build the brand and grow followers. Everything matters, everything needs to work together. There is no silver bullet."

Q: How do you determine which social media platforms make sense for your business?

A: "We find that if people are engaging with us on Twitter, then they are likely to engage with us on Instagram as well based on their demographics and other factors. Obviously, we look at a lot of different data points. We look at Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics (and a number of other analytics) as well as talking to social media influencers who have a strong following in certain areas; we ask them what is working where and get their feedback. We try different things out – because there are no rules here."

Gymshark now has over 300 employees, with offices in London, Los Angeles and Sydney. They have also launched their own downloaded social media app for iOS and Android, which offers customers an alternative way to view the latest products and make purchases.

PESTLE Analysis for Gymshark

The PESTLE analysis shows that the main external factors effecting Gymshark are political and environmental. The uncertainties of situations like Brexit or Covid-19 have caused a lot of insecurity, including economic uncertainties and possible future changes in UK law and politics. This will affect Gymshark from different trading laws, to a weaker pound making imports dearer, while recent generations have an increased conscience over where they purchase clothing from, with searches for sustainable fashion.

In more detail…


  • Political landscape changing with Brexit & Covid-19 fallout
  • Increased campaigns to promote healthy life – e.g. “Change4Life” in UK
  • Move to support local businesses


  • Corporation tax changes
  • Inflation rates and economic conditions
  • Weakening of the pound vs other currencies


  • Increase in social media users
  • Focus on stay at home fitness vs gyms
  • Increase in healthy lifestyle adoption
  • Social influencers promoting healthy lifestyles


  • Trend for new better performing fabrics
  • Increase use of AI for fitness help
  • Ecommerce and online shopping trends
  • Personal shopping experiences using technology


  • Health and safety laws
  • Corporation tax laws
  • Data protection laws such as GDPR


  • Increase in demand for sustainable goods
  • Increase in outdoor appreciation

Read the Ultimate Guide to PESTLE Analysis.

Five Forces Analysis for Gymshark

The Five Forces Analysis shows the most detrimental threat for Gymshark is substitutes. Their products are very easy to replicate (as they have no patents) and there are many other substitute sportswear products available within the market.

However, in the future the most detrimental force is likely to be buyer power of supplier, due to the increase in demand for sustainable materials. As a result of this demand, suppliers of sustainable fabrics will have more control over prices and be more selective of who they supply to, raising costs for brands such as Gymshark.

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In more detail…

Threat of New Entry: Low

There is not a large threat from start-ups due to costs associated with entering an oligopoly market. However, it is worth recognising that the rise of other social media platforms has lowered the barriers to entry, consequently allowing some start-ups to release their own sportswear, although these businesses are very small and not a direct threat to Gymshark.

Threat of Substitutes: High

There is a large threat from substitutes as many other brands offer alternate product with lower prices. Due to the fact that there is no switching cost to consumers there is high threat to Gymshark, as they can easily loose a large amount of market share if a competitor came out with a product with similar quality and designs (seamless), but with a lower price.

Power of Suppliers: Medium

Suppliers have a large influence over the sportswear industry as they affect prices and product quality, designs and lead times. Gymshark use specific manufacturers to develop their own technical fabrics, and new styles, with products being manufactured and bought to consumers within 6 weeks. However, as a result they are tied into using the same manufacturer in order to maintain this, giving the supplier the power to raise prices.

Power of Buyers: High

Customers have a strong buying power as there are many substitutes within the market for sports apparel, especially as there are no switching costs involved. Gymshark need to ensure they differentiate their products in order to avoid consumers switching to a substitute product.

Industry Rivalry: High

The combination of many suppliers, low differentiation and low switching costs makes this a very competitive industry.

Complete your own Five Forces here.

SWOT Analysis for Gymshark


  • Strong social media presence
  • Brand loyalty
  • Brand ambassadors
  • Overseas growth


  • Limited product portfolio compared to competitors
  • One sales channel (website)
  • Brand ambassadors not known outside fitness community


  • Sustainability
  • Diversify to gym equipment
  • Sportswear is now very fashionable
  • Physical shops
  • Partnerships
  • Alternative demographics to current target


  • Sustainable activewear companies (TALA)
  • Cheaper imitation products
  • Losing the brand ambassadors
  • Age group 16-25 finding alternative company

Read the Ultimate Guide to SWOT Analysis.


Gymshark is a great story of a company going from one person in a garage to becoming international in reach and having a value of in the hundreds of millions. In order to keep it’s growth protectory and remain successful the company will need to establish a clear new strategy, one different to the plan that has got them to this point.

So, what would you do? Why not check out some strategic options from Bowman’s Strategy Clock and apply them to the Gymshark case – what would work and what wouldn’t? Something to consider when out for a run… 🏃

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