Experience Matters: Sweaty Betty Makes Space for Workouts, Beauty Treatments at London Flagship

The British brand's flagship has a fitness studio, café and blow-dry bar.

LONDON — Sweaty Betty, the British activewear brand, has opened a one-stop shop in London’s Soho that’s focuses on female power and beauty. Clothing and accessories, the core of the business, is only part of the concept, which is more like a health club than a retail store.

Located at 1 Carnaby Street, at the corner of Beak Street, the 2,200-square-foot store spans three floors and houses a café offering Farm Girl food, a Duck & Dry blow-dry bar and a fitness studio offering different types of workouts.

“You can experience everything we love under one roof,” said Tamara Hill-Norton, who launched the brand in 1998 with her husband, Simon. “I handpicked all of our partners as I wanted to find brands with a similar ethos and values to Sweaty Betty — to live a balanced life that goes beyond fitness.”

She said the main focus is the customer experience. “Developing a genuine relationship with the customer is really important. Our staff are all experts in styling and fit. We try to create a real community feel in our stores. Whenever we open a new shop, we spend a lot of time and effort getting to know local instructors and shoppers to ensure our store becomes a destination, rather than just a shop.”

The décor has been done with an industrial, pared-back aesthetic, accented with touches of greenery and neon, Instagram-friendly signs. Farm Girl — a restaurant founded by Rose Mann and Anthony Hood — has set up a café that offers a healthy organic menu filled with rose lattes, breakfast bowls and superfood cocktails. The workout studio offers lessons from Frame, Paola’s Body Barre, Fight Klub, YogaRise, Gymclass, Equilbrium and Pilates PT. The Duck & Dry space offers a quick hair fix such as beachy waves or sporty braids.

Simon Hill-Norton said the retail experience has always been key for Sweaty Betty, since the brand opened its first shop in Notting Hill.

“We try to give back to our customers as much as we can,” he said. “For example, we’ve offered free fitness classes in-store for more than 10 years. Online, we try to replicate this one-to-one experience as much as we can — such as our free online workout videos where we film free classes with our ambassadors and fitness instructors. Our most popular video, Ballet Bootcamp, has had over 1.5 million views. On site, we also offer fitting guides, informative product descriptions and we always have our customer care team on hand to help.”

In terms of product, the zero-gravity and power leggings are bestsellers, as are the sports bras, with the latter tested in-house. Tamara said U.S. customers tend to gravitate toward fashion-led pieces, such as knitwear, and printed ski base layers. Prices range from 6 pounds for trainer liners to 495 pounds for skiwear. Leggings retail from 45 pounds to 95 pounds.

The brand is focused on the U.K. and U.S. markets while another central London concept space will open later this year. Sweaty Betty also plans to open units in TriBeCa, New York, and Aspen, Colo. While the company would not disclose figures, according to data from Companies House, the U.K. registry of businesses, sales were up 16.2 percent in the year ended Dec. 25, 2016, to 40.6 million pounds, while profit rose 87 percent to 509,145 pounds.

Simon said the U.K. remains the largest market, while the U.S. has been challenging and rewarding. “We really pioneered the ath-leisure market here. Developing Sweaty Betty from a well-known brand in the U.K. and taking it to such a competitive market in the States has meant we have had to think quite differently. To our advantage, I think one of the key points that differentiates us is our British-ness. It’s been great to engage with our new customers about the London personality of the brand.”

He believes the great differentiator for the brand is that the clothing has been designed in-house by women who love to work out, “so we’ve made sure our fit and high-quality fabrics are on another level. Plus, our collections are designed to be worn from studio to street, so there’s an unexpected fashion edge and amazing prints.”