Founded in 2015, WIT Fitness is a global, omni-channel sports retailer that caters for the fitness obsessed. Here, RLI speaks with CEO Daniel Williams to discuss how the business has grown since its inception and how it hopes to develop in the coming years as it continues to build a stronger community.
The aim of WIT Fitness is to offer the consumer the definitive collection of training products, access to unique training experiences and events, athlete engagement and to create our own global training community. Our mantra is that “training has the ability to change lives and we exist to change as many as possible”.
The business was born out of Daniel Williams noticing that a cult community had begun to take shape where everyone began to wear the same thing and a focus on CrossFit training had taken hold. “It created this sense of community which, on the back of it created an opportunity for brands to capitalise on that and it formed a fashion movement that we, along with the brands, were the first to notice,” explains Dan Williams, CEO of WIT Fitness.
A predominantly online business, the company operates an exceptional space in London in St. Pauls which acts as a hybrid, incorporating both a retail space and a training space. The space is seamless and merges the training and retail space into one.
“We wanted to create a first-to-market concept that no-one had ever done before, bringing a gym and store environment together to be a beacon for the fitness community of London and the UK. The space provides a platform to speak to our community, to run product launches, it is a space for our members and it’s a place to learn about our consumers every day,” says Williams.
While the store only represents around 10 per cent of the revenue the business generates, having it shut down during the coronavirus lockdown will still cost WIT Fitness somewhere in the region in £2-3M in lost revenue. However, what this pandemic has allowed the company to do is have the whole team focus on how to drive the business forward online, its main point of sale and predominant customer contact point.
It was around 18 months ago when private equity investment was received. Before this, the start-up had been operating through money from friends, family and crowdfunding. Williams feels that this helped confirm the business was on the right track and doing the right things, and following this investment the company has undergone a transformation and everything from operational excellence through to digital brand projection, to social media channels to internal processes have improved beyond recognition and allowed them to build a solid platform for growth.
“The key for us is the community,” Williams explains. “Our day to day goal is to keep customers happy and engaged, and as long as our operational excellency levels excel every day, then we believe we will continue to build trust with our customers and retain their custom moving forward.”
With e-commerce and online activities being so critical to the growth of the brand, in the last year they have taken steps to grow their distribution capabilities in the US with the opening of a distribution centre in Houston, Texas. This year their US revenue will grow from $300,000 to $2.5M and next year they expect it to reach over $6M so it is a massive opportunity of growth for WIT
A quarter of all their trade now comes from outside of the UK, they are shipping to over 100 countries and in markets such as Ireland, France, Spain and Netherlands their conversion rate is over 1.5 per cent so they are increasing their stature as an international retailer.
“Our focus in the next 12 months is entirely on improving the online business; we want to be the leading global retailer for the fitness consumer. We want everyone to feel they should be shopping with us because we are the only one with such a diverse product selection from a multitude of different brands,”
“Whilst the major brands are increasingly closing down retail accounts, our unique relationship with them and access to exclusive and collaborative products adds to our unique proposition.”
With a business that is constantly increasing in size, the challenges are numerous. Predominantly the challenges are operational ones, especially now given they have a UK warehouse and a US warehouse. They are also setting about introducing a lot of systems behind the scenes, such as a major advance with its inventory and customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Looking forward, despite being a digital business, in the coming years the hope is that they will be able to follow the model of its London site and launch flagship locations in major cities around the world, so they have a brick-and-mortar presence in major locations as well as growing its online capabilities.
“The other area of growth will be our own label business, which at the moment is just t-shirts. We feel this is an excellent area to transform and we will be turning our attention to it more in the future, but without losing sight of our digital background and focus on this medium,” explains Williams.
“For us, this new world is a challenge to enhance our experience and enhance our space, digital offering and customer experience.”