One of the highlights of this tight-knit partnership? In 2021, Gymshark and Bleckmann channeled EUR 10 million into a state-of-the-art distribution center in Flanders. An investment that even earned the two companies a nomination for Flanders Investment & Trade’s 2021 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy.
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Gymshark & Bleckmann double down on e-commerce in Flanders
British activewear brand Gymshark and Belgian-Dutch logistics firm Bleckmann go together like peas and carrots. “We have a very tight partnership,” says Steve Hewitt, Executive Chairman of Gymshark. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s with which company.” Reinardt Van Oel, COO of Bleckmann, agrees: “We always strive to act as part of the company we provide logistics and e-commerce solutions for. That’s easy when working with Gymshark, since we take the same no-nonsense, people-first approach to business.”
As an online-only brand, Gymshark highly values its engaged community and prioritizes its promise of a smooth and enjoyable shopping experience. When searching for a third-party logistics (3PL) partner, Gymshark sought a company that could support them in keeping that promise. “We were looking for more than a service provider; we wanted an e-commerce logistics expert that could serve as an extension of our own brand,” Steve Hewitt explains. “That’s why we went with Bleckmann: they share our values. It felt like the right fit from day one. There’s a mutual trust.”
That partnership started in 2017 and became a long-term commitment centered around Bleckmann and Gymshark’s distribution center (DC) in Rieme, Flanders. “We first considered several sites in the Netherlands and Flanders with Gymshark back then,” Reinardt Van Oel recalls. “But we soon realized that we needed to build a new, scalable site from scratch to accommodate the ambitious growth plan. Gymshark was on course to double its figures annually, from 120,000 units per day at peak times in 2018 to 240,000 in 2019 and 480,000 in 2020.”
In the end, this foreign investment power couple decided on Rieme, Flanders, for the location of its new distribution center. Reinardt Van Oel: “The town’s excellent location – close to the Port of Antwerp and North Sea Port as well as several major highways – was a great bonus. So was the proximity to the city of Ghent, with its excellent university and access to resources in cleantech, mobility and other domains.”
“What really sold it for me was the people,” Steve Hewitt adds. “A brand or business is only as good as the people behind it. The talent available in Flanders is extraordinary. Add to that Rieme’s close proximity to Bleckmann’s established Desteldonk site, and it was a no-brainer for us.”
The combination of talented people, a strategic location and the proximity of our Desteldonk site culminated in the choice of Rieme, Flanders.
The ultimate example of why Flanders’ workforce makes a major difference came on Black Friday 2020. “Our annual summer sale and Black Friday are the most important times of the year for Gymshark,” Steve Hewitt explains. “During those two weeks, we generate 20% of our yearly revenue.”
“As always, we had to strive towards our solid customer promise – that was essential to both Gymshark and Bleckmann,” Reinardt Van Oel continues. “This meant processing 4.2 million ordered units in just 7 days – a task that would take most companies almost a month to accomplish.”
Steve Hewitt: “We wanted to stay true to our customer promise, but only if it could be done safely in the face of COVID-19. The teams at Rieme, Grobbendonk and Desteldonk shared the workload and went above and beyond to accomplish that goal in a record time. This level of flexibility and passion was a feat I’ve rarely witnessed before. That’s when I fully realized that we are working with world-class professionals.”
I’ve rarely seen the level of flexibility, professionalism and passion that I found in Flanders.
For Bleckmann and Gymshark, this joint investment in Flanders is only a beginning. “We have each invested EUR 5 million, but we have also agreed on investing another EUR 15 million in the next 10 years,” says Reinardt Van Oel.
“Gymshark has ambitious growth plans, and the site in Rieme was designed to grow with us. So, there are definitely plans for expansion down the line,” Steve Hewitt confirms. “Especially because this site is so important for us. It’s a great example of e-commerce logistics excellence for our distribution centers across the globe. In fact, we are turning our Flanders site into a global expertise hub for our other entities, together with Bleckmann.”