When young fitness fanatic Ben Francis started making and selling gymwear in 2012 with his friends while still at university, none of them imagined the venture would be generating sales of £12.8m within four years. They felt that the outfits available didn’t reflect the demands, trends or personalities of people like them who actually used gyms – so they decided to make the clothes themselves.

Today Gymshark’s innovative clothing, including workout vests, hoodies, T-shirts and leggings, all featuring the brand’s distinctive shark logo, are snapped up by fitness enthusiasts around the world. PPP The company did not use the usual routes of affiliate or email marketing or third-party sellers to generate revenue; instead, it has increased awareness of its brand and boosted sales via cunning use of social media.

It sponsors 18 top global YouTubers, Instagrammers and bloggers with a combined social media following of 20m, and it accompanies them to big fitness exhibitions around the world. This exposure helped it break into the lucrative US market, which now makes up about 40% of sales. The company exports to more than 150 countries from its warehouse in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire – overseas sales represent three-quarters of turnover.

The Redditch-based business is developing its own technical fabrics and outsources most of its manufacturing to China. Items can go from design to market within three months, although some products made in the UK have a lead time of just six weeks. The company says this agility gives it an edge over larger fitness wear companies, which can’t react to fashion trends so quickly.

The business is led and majority-owned by founder Francis, 24, who is now chief brand officer, with Steve Hewitt, 43, as managing director and Paul Richardson, 57, as non-executive director. This month the company bolstered its board by appointing nonexecutive director Richard Chapple, 39, former divisional chief executive at The Hut Group. Sales hit £12.8m this year and Gymshark is forecasting more than double that figure next year as it grows in America and launches online stores in Australia, Germany and Russia.

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Company details
Year2016
Rank1
CompanyGymshark
ActivityOnline activewear retailer
LocationWorcestershire
Annual sales rise over 3 years193.27%
Latest sales £000s*12,841
Staff53
Founded2012
Websitewww.gymshark.com

If applicable:

* supplied by company † annualised figure