Gymshark Hires Abercrombie Vet to Take a Swing at the U.S. Market

Kim Dolder joins to drive the brand's North American expansion

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U.K. activewear brand Gymshark has made a series of executive hires to help it claim a bigger slice of the North American market, and it has a plan to take on its more established, homegrown U.S. rivals: Target gym-goers, not runners.

The company, known for its seamless leggings and crop tops, has appointed former Abercrombie & Fitch exec Kim Dolder to the new role of general manager, North America.

Taking on competitors such as Nike, Lululemon and Under Armour, the challenger is planning for gains in the world’s largest activewear market, which is expected to grow to $305 billion by 2030, per Fortune Business Insights.

Based in New York, Dolder will lead Gymshark’s U.S. team, with a remit to drive brand awareness and build physical experiences for its Gen Z and millennial customer base.

The exec spent four years at Abercrombie & Fitch, where she was senior vice president and general manager for the Gilly Hicks activewear brand. She’s also held senior positions at Target, Outdoor Voices and Under Armour.

Though the sports apparel sector is ripe for growth, 2023 and 2024 have been challenging for retailers contending with subdued demand and intense promotional activity.

However, digital-first retailer Gymshark has bucked this trend, reporting year-on-year sales growth of 15% in 2023 to reach $694 million.

In a statement, founder and CEO Ben Francis said North America was the brand’s biggest region by sales, responsible for half of Gymshark’s annual revenue. However, he noted the brand still had “such a small slice” of the market.

Dolder’s appointment dovetails with that of Hannah Mercer, who joined from Adidas to take on the role of general manager for Gymshark’s wholesale and retail business.

In recent months, the brand has added other execs from big-name brands to its top table, including former ASOS chief financial officer Mat Dunn; the Very Group’s Carly Natalizia as chief digital officer; and Lacoste’s Laurent Madeleine, who joined as chief supply chain officer.

Representing gym-goers

Gymshark chief marketing officer Noel Mack told ADWEEK that to differentiate itself in North America, Gymshark wants to own gym-going consumers.

“American people are adopting resistance training daily—and as of yet, no brands have truly owned that space,” he explained. “Recently, we’ve seen brands do an incredible job [being adjacent to] running and yoga but as yet, nobody has stood up and represented that gym consumer, so that’s what we are here to do.”

Co-founded by Francis from his bedroom in 2012, Gymshark started life as a DTC ecommerce business. Post-pandemic, it was valued at $1.3 billion, operating globally in 230 countries including the U.S. and Australia.

It’s found success through a robust social and influencer marketing strategy, as well as purpose-driven campaigns encouraging women, LGBTQ+ communities, and other underrepresented groups into the gym.

In 2023, the brand shuttered its 65-person Denver U.S. HQ just two years after opening its doors. Mack put this restructure down Gymshark “acting like a big business too soon,” and modeling itself off bigger athleticwear giants.

“We lost some of our authenticity with our customer,” he told Glossy at the time. 

Now, the brand is taking a different approach to its U.S. expansion, rooted in events, digital marketing and ecommerce sales.

Gymshark has already made physical forays into market, with pop-up stores in New York, Miami and L.A, each drawing more than 50,000 guests.

Following the success of its first brick-and-mortar store in London’s Regent Street shopping district, its also considering a U.S. flagship in the future.

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