British activewear brand Sweaty Betty has named Erika Serow president and U.S. chief executive officer as the firm gears up for its expansion in the States.
Serow, who begins on Jan. 18, has been the retail practice leader for the Americas region for Bain & Co. since 2013, with a focus on the apparel sector. She joined Bain in 1995, and has worked at Bain’s Boston, London, Sydney and Milan offices before becoming based in New York since 2001.
Sweaty Betty, which counts the better known yoga apparel brand Lululemon Athletica as a competitor, offers its products at higher “premium” price points, and seeks to distinguish itself from competing brands with high quality, cutting-edge fabrics and fashion-forward designs that can be worn for multiple sports and not just yoga.
Sweaty Betty was cofounded by Tamara and Simon Hill-Norton more than 15 years ago. Tamara is creative director and Simon is chief executive officer. In addition to the company’s Web site, it operates more than 40 boutiques in the U.K., including concessions at department stores Harrods and Selfridges. In the U.S., it has four boutiques — two in New York, and one each in Los Angeles and Greenwich, Conn. — and two concessions at Bloomingdale’s, one each at the 59th Street flagship in Manhattan and at The Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J.
The company, which already counted Whittington as an investor, in February received a “strategic growth investment” from Catterton for an undisclosed amount that helped fuel its expansion in the U.S.
Serow will continue to be based in New York, overseeing a U.S. team of 15 employees. “There are several things I love about Sweaty Betty….This is very much a woman-led business in the athletic space. It’s an incredible market.
In an interview, Serow acknowledged that while the category is one where almost everyone feels a need to get into the space — Tory Burch is the one the latest entrants — and grab some market share, that didn’t necessarily mean Sweaty Betty is late in getting into the game.
“The market is a little tired and stale, but Sweaty Betty has great potential to shake things up. We have smart investors who have the capital to let [the company] grow….This is about turbo charging the growth,” Serow said.
Even though there may be new entrants hoping to gain some share of the consumers’ wallet, Serow said it won’t be as easy as many think. She explained that there are several reasons why Sweaty Betty will have an advantage over its competitors: “One is that it is a technical category. This is completely different from apparel in terms of fit, construction and design. Like the intimate apparel sector, there are big barriers to get into the market and [to do it well one] needs technical design. Number two, while the market leader is Lululemon, there are also a lot of “me too” products, and the sector needs something different from another me-too [brand]. Number three, the most interesting thing about the category — and this is where the ath-leisure piece is really important — something like 80 percent of [our customers] wear it outside of exercising. Women want to look good at SoulCycle, or when they are out running errands.”
According to the new U.S. ceo-to-be, the lifestyle brand is designing for the “girl that lives in the city. We will attract customers who are younger and older. It’s more about the lifestyle than the age range.”
After Serow starts her new gig, her top focus for the first 100 days will be to design a three-year plan, one that will include an expansion of the brand’s store footprint in the U.S. there are already two stores opening in the first quarter, in Santa Monica and in the Upper East Side in Manhattan. The company also will be looking at having a bigger presence online, with digital becoming “an important piece of the puzzle.”