Fitness apparel and accessories brand, Gymshark, announced it was opening its first-ever flagship store earlier this year, ten years after it first launched online. In that time, Gymshark has grown to be a £1 billion e-commerce business but from 31st October it has had its first brick-and-mortar store.
This new flagship store was something I was both excited and apprehensive about – I love the brand but considering it built its fortune and reputation online, is it really necessary for them to have a presence on the high street?
So, I went to investigate.
Go big or go home
The first thing to note is the sheer size of the store – two expansive floors, mostly open plan and with gym-themed decor. Even the mannequins were pumping iron…
Seeing the entirety of Gymshark’s range on display all in one place was amazing – and reminded me why I prefer shopping in-store rather than online.
The customer journey? More like a maze
At first, it appeared that the store’s layout was ungendered. Crop tops mixed with baggy shorts, oversized hoodies, tight leggings and the like. This was the first time I acknowledged that I would automatically look for the ‘women’s section’ in a clothing store as my first step to shopping. It meant I had to go around the entire store to see what might be available to me. Because of this seemingly non-gendered approach, I found myself wondering how the sizing worked. At this point, somewhere I could find that information would have been really helpful – they have a sizing guide online after all, so why not in-store?
I eventually discovered that the store was actually arranged by the name of each clothing collection. This system of organisation wasn’t explicitly pointed out to customers and was different to the normal shopping experience, leading to confusion.
More than just fashion
Downstairs held the more premium collections, a Joe & Juice bar, a seating area, changing rooms, showers and the ‘Sweat Room’. The ‘Sweat Room’ adds to the customer experience by offering group training sessions such as yoga and body conditioning.
A small training area called ‘The Pro Bench’ allows customers to have a 25 minute 1-2-1 session with a professional. What an incredible experience for Gymshark to offer, giving people an alternative to the gym – where costs, availability and confidence may be acting as a barrier. The in-store shopping experience can be more than just buying a product.
However, had I not approached a staff member and enquired, I would never have known that this is what each room was for. Or how to book a session! There were no signs, no posters, no QR codes, nothing. The oversight is a shame as it means the message is not being spread to customers who would probably get involved.
Chats over checkouts
Staff members are dotted around and equipped with scan-and-go devices to make payments because there are no traditional checkouts.
Yes, you read that right.
The pay points are nothing more than wooden tables with ‘pay here’ written on them. It’s a clever mechanism for shoppers, eradicating queues and supposedly heightening customer convenience. But once again, this was not communicated as I wasted my time watching others in order to figure this out. The only rationale behind this (I can guess) is that the store wants to provide what an online store can’t: human interaction.
After being in the store for 90 minutes, taking everything in, I can say that I liked most of what Gymshark’s new flagship store has to offer. It’s clear that Gymshark wants to provide a different customer experience from the norm, but this needs to be communicated more efficiently to customers. For a consumer who hasn’t got a lot of time to spend in store browsing, what’s currently on offer is daunting and inconvenient. Gymshark needs to work at improving this otherwise the physical store will be more novelty than necessity, especially post-Christmas.