Sweaty Betty, the $30 million U.K.-based activewear company, will open its first U.S. store next month in New York’s SoHo neighborhood.
While builders are finishing up the nearly 1,000-square-foot space at 77 Mercer Street, construction is already under way in Greenwich, Conn. for a second boutique that will be about the same size. That one will open in late September at 200 Greenwich Avenue. The 15-year-old company has 33 boutiques including concept shops in Harrods and Selfridges. To spread the word about the brand, Sweaty Betty has a team Stateside hosting 20 trunk shows in the Hamptons, giving away yoga mats, activewear and catalogues.
Tamara Hill Norton got the idea for the company after trying to buy a sports bra in an athletic store where the male teenage sales associate knew next to nothing about the product. After opening the first store in Notting Hill, she worked the sales floor seven days a week to get a better handle on what shoppers were after, said brand manager Fleur Askey. “We call our customer ‘Kate,’ not after Kate Middleton, just so we always have someone in mind when we are designing or talking about the customer,” she said.
When Hill, the brand’s creative director, and her husband Simon, chief executive officer, travel to New York, as they often do, they keep a close eye on the the city’s street scene. Stateside, the couple can often be found camped out in Mercer Kitchen checking out their potential customers. Back in their London offices, they prefer to work on different floors so that each can focus on his or her expertise. Sweaty Betty stores carry a limited amount of other brands, but the namesake label accounts for 93 percent of sales in its stores.
Two summers ago, they sent a team of staffers to the Hamptons to case out all the gyms and yoga studios, and to give away catalogues, activewear and yoga mats. Having seen e-commerce sales increase and boutique fitness like Soul Cycle, Flywheel and Barry’s Boot Camp boom, the husband and wife team decided this summer would be a good time to tap into the U.S. market. To ensure that the U.S. launch is authentic, U.K. store employees have the option to relocate to run the new stores. “It’s rather exciting. Loads of girls are going to move to New York to live a new life in the U.S.,” Askey said.