Sweaty Betty in sprint for new investor to cash in on lockdown demand

Sweaty Betty

Strong sales of its £95 figure-hugging leggings during lockdown have prompted Sweaty Betty to limber up for a new investor.

The upmarket British sportswear brand, which was founded in Notting Hill in 1998 by Tamara Hill-Norton and her husband, Simon, has asked bankers at Goldman Sachs to tap private equity interest in a deal that could value the business at about £250 million.

The business, which is backed by L Clatterton, an American private equity firm, has more than 60 stores in the UK, US, Canada and Hong Kong.

It is understood that Sweaty Betty has been encouraged to explore a sale as “athleisurewear” businesses have been in demand, with exercise clothes becoming a global working from home uniform. Soaring demand for athleisurewear products has lifted shares in the US brand LuluLemon Athletica by 55 per cent in the past year while Gymshark, a British fitness brand, recently struck a deal to sell a 20 per cent stake to General Atlantic that valued the business at more than £1 billion. Gymshark, which has about 400 employees and 4.6 million followers on Instagram, was valued at about 25 times its earnings.

However, industry sources said that Sweaty Betty was unlikely to achieve such a high multiple because it continued to have a bricks and mortar estate, which investors are wary about after the slide in footfall.

Sweaty Betty sales grew by 17 per cent to £63 million in 2018 while pre-tax losses narrowed to £4.2 million, according to the latest available accounts of its parent company, Lady of Leisure Investco Limited. However, the brand is understood to have grown rapidly in the past year. The brand, which is named after Ms Hill-Norton’s determination to make it cool to sweat, has been adopted by the Duchess of Cambridge and celebrities including Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon.