Sneaker and functional fitness craze drives investment for WIT Fitness

WIT Fitness, a London-based sports retail business focusing on training footwear and apparel, the go-to of the Europe’s rapidly growing Crossfit and group fitness community, has secured a £2m investment from growth capital investor VGC Partners.

This follows the explosion of global sneaker sales activated by ecommerce, a trend which has also been adopted by the consumer of the ever growing communities in functional fitness training programmes such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) and CrossFit.

Founded by former amateur athlete Dan Williams and sports retail expert Sam Kitching in London in 2015, WIT Fitness operates an online retail platform in both the UK and US markets, selling branded training footwear and apparel, including Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Under Armour and the rapidly emerging Nobull. The business has also completed a number of collaborations with the major brands, echoing street wear and sneaker businesses. Most recently, the company designed its own global exclusive footwear piece with Reebok, with four more collaborations coming in 2019.

With sales increasingly driven by ecommerce, as well as the importance of social media and authentic celebrity influencers and high level athletes, revenues for the business have risen sharply, with year on year turnover up 60 per cent in the last 12 months.

Alongside its online offering, WIT Fitness opened a one of a kind ‘WIT Training Hub’ in 2018 at London St. Paul’s – a combined retail and gym flagship store. With a multi-branded retail offering upstairs, the lower ground gym space operates classes seven days a week.

Named the ‘Best Gym in the World’ by Men’s Health UK in 2018, the site has seen more than 5,000 people come through the doors since opening, with 200 signed members and 200 class packages purchased per week. This includes high profile CrossFit athletes Matt Fraser, Rich Froning, Tia-Claire Toomey and Katrin Davisdottr, as well as the men’s England rugby union team and multiple members of Team GB.

The £2m funding from VGC Partners will enable the business to enhance its online platforms, as well as look to replicate its current gym and retail combination to enter into new international markets including New York, Paris, Barcelona and LA. As part of the deal, Nick Adcock, CEO of Spyder Active Sports and former global president of DC Shoes, has been appointed as independent chairman.

The investment was made from VGC Partners’ £50m Fund II, which achieved final close in March 2019.

Parminder Basran, managing partner at VGC Partners, said:

“Sneakers have become a pop culture phenomenon in recent years, led by the rise in celebrity endorsements and brand collaborations. A core strength of WIT Fitness is that it connects to its affluent customer base via social engagement, enabling it to attract high profile brand partnerships and build links to the athlete community. It has already proven that there is an immediate international opportunity in the US and continental Europe through its US and European ecommerce websites.

“Recent M&A activity in the sector reflects healthy appetite from private equity and strategic investors in the premium fitness and retail category to take advantage of the explosion of sneaker sales. As a leading grassroots brand within the functional fitness market, WIT is in an excellent position to replicate the successful gym and retail store concept in key international territories.”

Dan Williams, founder of WIT Fitness, said:

“Sam and I identified a rapid increase in class-based training, especially the particularly aggressive rise of Crossfit and it was obvious a new consumer was emerging off the back of this group training. We identified a gap in the market for an authentic and specialist retailer to cater for and help the brands to reach this consumer. Training was becoming a sport in its own right.

“We definitely see ourselves as a disruptor in the sports retail industry. We have taken traditionally dull bricks and mortar and turned it into an activation and training space that is recognised globally by the training consumer – a model we aim to roll out into other territories with VGC. Alongside these touch points, we will relentlessly pursue progress on our ecommerce and social platforms, working with our brand partners to do so.

“Our business is built off the back of our community, from our members in the gym to our global community across our social platforms. Our desire is to provide them the most exciting, exclusive product, constantly engaging content and some unforgettable training activations. Working alongside VGC will allow us to build on our initial success and take this experience to other territories.”