Sweaty Betty is an activewear brand that exclusively sells female clothing across a variety of categories.
The company, which is headquartered in London, United Kingdom, was founded in 1998 by husband-and-wife duo Simon and Tamara Norton.
Tamara got the idea to start the business after experiencing firsthand how few comfortable options were available for females at the time. She raised money from friends and family to get the business off the ground by launching a store in London’s Notting Hill district.
Over the next few years, Tamara and her husband Simon, who quit his job and joined her, opened multiple more stores across London. In 2001, Sweaty Betty was awarded Retailer of the Year while Tamara was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Harper’s Bazaar and Chanel two years later.
Eventually, though, the founders decided to pivot towards only selling the Sweaty Betty brand within their stores. By 2008, all of their stores were carrying Sweaty Betty gear only. These days, Sweaty Betty is led by CEO Julia Straus while the original founders remain active in the background.
Female trainees weren’t the only ones who liked what they saw. In August 2021, Sweaty Betty was acquired by American footwear conglomerate Wolverine World Wide (WWW) for £295 million ($410 million).
For the fiscal year 2020, Sweaty Betty generated £126.5 million ($164 million) in revenue. Online sales attribute to about 70 percent of revenue, with 80 percent being sold direct-to-consumer (DTC). In 2021, Wolverine expects its revenue to grow to $250 million.
The company, which employs close to 1,000 people, operates 60 stores across the globe (with the overwhelming majority being located in the U.K.). Over 700,000 people follow the brand on Instagram.
The methodology with which competitors of Sweaty Betty are ranked is based on a variety of data points. Information such as the revenue generated, the number of employees, valuation, Instagram followers (one of the main sales channels for DTC brands), and anything else that’s relevant is being considered.
To ensure comparability, this analysis takes brands into account that offer both female and male athleisure clothing (since there aren’t many female-only fashion companies). Some of those brands, especially the larger ones, may furthermore offer other types of clothing and equipment.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 12 competitors of Sweaty Betty.
Headquarters: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Founder(s): Chip Wilson Year Founded: 1998
Lululemon is probably the biggest rival to Sweaty Betty when it comes to pure-play athleisure products. Chip Wilson started the business as a design studio by day and yoga studio by night but eventually pivoted it towards clothing in late 2000.
The continuous growth culminated in the firm’s IPO in 2007, allowing it to raise $327 million in the process. Today, Lululemon is valued at an eye-popping $48 billion and generated $6.3 billion for 2021.
Lululemon was able to diversify into new categories as well. In June 2020, they purchased MIRROR for $500 million to offer workout programs to their customers.
Lululemon is a global company operating 500 stores and employing 25,000 people. Having four million fans on Instagram is a testament to the following it has.
Interesting side note: founder Chip Wilson chose the Lululemon name to make it more appealing to Japanese customers who generally had a tough time pronouncing Western names.
Headquarters: Petaluma, California, United States Founder(s): Scott Kerslake Year Founded: 1998
Athleta is the American counterpart to Sweaty Betty, meaning it sells athleisure clothing catered solely to women.
Athleta was launched at a time when most athleisure clothing was tailored for men. Brands would take men’s apparel, shrink it, and sometimes change the color – a practice commonly referred to as “shrink it and pink it.”
Its founder Scott Kerslake, who was an avid cyclist, surfer, and worked in investment banking, saw this first hand when the women he cycled with had to put up with substandard gear. After raising $700,000 in seed funding, he aggressively grew the business, which he departed from in 2004, to millions in annual sales.
Athleta was ultimately sold to retail giant Gap Inc. for $150 million in 2008. It now employs close to 3,000 people and operates 200 stores across Canada and the United States. Gap Inc. projects that Athleta will sell over $2 billion worth of clothing by the end of the fiscal year 2023.
Headquarters: El Segundo, California, United States Founder(s): Adam Goldenberg, Don Ressler, Kate Hudson Year Founded: 2013
Fabletics is the brainchild of actress Kate Hudson who was able to utilize her celebrity status to establish an athleisure brand that acts as an alternative to pricier workout clothing options like Lululemon.
While Hudson stepped back from an active role in the company in late 2021, it continues to be led by its other co-founder Adam Goldenberg. Fabletics frequently partners with other celebrities such as actors Demi Lovato, Liza Koshy, or Vanessa Hudgens.
The company, which operates more than 50 retail stores and employs over 800 people, generates around $500 million in annual revenue per year. A whopping 1.9 million people follow the brand on Instagram.
Headquarters: Beaverton, Oregon, United States Founder(s): Philip Hampson Knight Year Founded: 1964
Nike is the undisputed leader in sportswear, from its own labels to companies such as Jordan, Converse, Starter, and Umbro that it owns.
The Nike brand has a following of more than 210 million on Instagram. The company operates over 1,000 retail stores and employs more than 75,000 people.
In 2021, Nike, which doesn’t disclose athleisure sales, generated $44.5 billion (up 17 percent) in annual revenue. Its brand power is, furthermore, exemplified by the close to 45 percent margin it generates on every sale.
Headquarters: Herzogenaurach, Bayern, Germany Founder(s): Adolf “Adi” Dassler Year Founded: 1948
Adidas is the next company on this list that certainly doesn’t need any introduction. Throughout the decades, it has not only been synonymous with sportswear but fashion as well.
This is probably best exemplified by its Adidas Originals brand. More recent examples include its collaboration with rapper Kanye West to create the Yeezy brand. Adidas Originals itself has more than 34 million followers on Instagram, signaling the reach that brand alone has.
Adidas employs around 55,000 people worldwide and for the fiscal year 2021, it managed to make €21.2 billion – an increase of 15 percent compared with the previous year.
Headquarters: Herzogenaurach, Bayern, Germany Founder(s): Rudolf Dassler Year Founded: 1948
Puma was started by the brother of Adidas founder Adi Dassler after the two had a personal falling out (both were Nazi party members, with Rudolf widely being believed to be the more ‘passionate’ one).
Puma has a long-standing tradition of sponsoring leading football teams for decades and due to this, it is one of the world’s top brands when it comes to sports. Nowadays, Puma sponsors athletes like Neymar or Lewis Hamilton and cooperates closely with stars such as Selina Gomez.
In recent years, it has shifted its strategy towards athleisure clothing, releasing hundreds of different designs with a focus on fashion.
Puma, which has over 12 million Instagram followers, operates around 830 stores across the globe while employing over 15,000 people. Its current brand momentum led to a record-setting year. In 2021, Puma generated $7.7 billion in revenue (up from the $5.9 billion it made the prior year).
Headquarters: Solihull, United Kingdom Founder(s): Ben Francis, Lewis Morgan Year Founded: 2012
Gymshark, another British company on this list, is the fashion brand that’s most synonymous with the rise of social media. It has made a name for itself by working together with (Instagram) influencers who would promote his gear in return for joining its prestigious Gymshark Athletes influencer program.
The company, in order to remain nimble and quickly react to new trends, has refrained from opening any physical retail locations. However, this is set to change in 2022 as Gymshark will open stores in selected and high-trafficked places.
Its online-only strategy has certainly paid dividends so far. In 2021, Gymshark generated £400 million (around $550 million) in revenue. The company, which has more than 5.6 million Instagram followers, employs over 1,000 people across its 55,000 square-foot campus in Solihull.
8. Beyond Yoga
Headquarters: Los Angeles, California, United States Founder(s): Jodi Guber Brufsky, Michelle Wahler Year Founded: 2005
Beyond Yoga is an apparel company that specializes in designing and distributing clothing for both women and men inspired by the practice of yoga.
The company, which remains founder-led, was successfully sold to jeans maker Levi Strauss for $400 million in August 2021. Levi, at the time of the acquisition, said that Beyond Yoga’s 80 employees and the brand itself will add another $100 million to its annual revenue.
Beyond Yoga currently sells the clothing through its own online store as well as by working together with other retailers and yoga studios. 370,000 people follow the brand on Instagram.
9. Outdoor Voices
Headquarters: Austin, Texas, United States Founder(s): Matt McIntyre, Tyler Haney Year Founded: 2013
One rather new entrant in this list is Outdoor Voices, which sells clothing that is primarily aimed at runners. Tyler Haney founded the company after completing a business program at the Parsons School of Design in New York.
In its early days, the company sold so-called rec kits, allowing trainees to pair compression tops and matching leggings. Much like Gymshark, it grew its following via Instagram and other social media platforms.
Outdoor Voices, which has racked up half a million followers on Instagram, went through a heavy restructuring process in 2020, which led to the departure of founder and CEO Haney (as well as the closure of a few stores).
Despite those issues, the company seems to be in a healthy state. It employs over 200 people, has raised $64.4 million in funding, and continues to operate 12 retail stores across the United States.
Headquarters: Carlsbad, California, United States Founder(s): Beaver Theodosakis Year Founded: 1992
prAna started out designing clothing for outdoor enthusiasts but soon pivoted into other sports such as yoga. These days, it offers almost any type of fashion product imaginable.
Its outdoor focus, as well as continuous growth, led the company to be acquired by Columbia Sportswear for $190 million in 2014.
For the fiscal year 2021, prAna, which employs over 300 people, generated $142 million in revenue (slightly up from the $132 million it made in 2020).
Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts, United States Founder(s): Joseph William Foster Year Founded: 1895
Reebok is by far the oldest company on this list and, as a result, went through a lot of change over its illustrious history. Its founder began by selling spiked running shoes and, over time, Rebook expanded into all kinds of sports-related categories.
Simultaneously, it went through various ownerships throughout that time as well. Adidas purchased Rebook for $3.8 billion in 2005 but sold it to Authentic Brands Group for $2.5 billion in 2021.
Its new owner expects to grow Reebok’s revenue from $4 billion a year to over $10 billion by the mid-2020s. In recent years, the company, which employs over 4,000 people, had a resurgence that was boasted by greater sales of its athleisure clothing lines.
Headquarters: London, England, United Kingdom Founder(s): Nick Robertson, Quentin Griffiths Year Founded: 2000
ASOS, short for “As Seen On Screen”, is an eCommerce website that sells over 850 brands – including its own clothing line.
Over the past years, its own brand has been expanded in favor of other clothing on its platform. Naturally, ASOS also boasts an extensive collection of both female and male athleisure fashion.
ASOS went public back in 2008 and is currently valued at around $2 billion. The company, which employs over 3,000 people, generated £3.9 billion in the fiscal year 2021 (at a healthy profit of £193 million).
Who Actually Owns Sweaty Betty?
As previously stated, Sweaty Betty was acquired by American footwear company Wolverine World Wide for £295 million ($410 million) in August 2021.
Wolverine itself owns a variety of other fashion brands that are mostly situated in the footwear space. Examples include Keds, Hush Puppies, Saucony, Cat Footwear, and more.
The two brands stated that they planned to release collaborations in the future. WWW intends to expand these partnerships to the other brands it owns, too. It, furthermore, intends to help Sweaty Betty to expand into new categories.