Having recently secured £1m investment to fund its growth, The Sports Edit is on the fast track to activewear success. Drapers speaks to founder Nick Paulson-Ellis to hear more.
Former investment banker Nick Paulson-Ellis founded premium activewear retailer The Sports Edit in 2015, offering a curated range of high-end labels such as Reigning Champ, Adidas by Stella McCartney, and yoga brands Alo and Teeki. It has one store in London’s Chelsea, and is set to open a new flagship in the Kings Cross Coal Drops Yard development, which opens in October 2018. Having shown a 160% increase in ecommerce sales in 2017, the business recently secured £1m in funding, to drive growth online and fund its new store space. Drapers spoke to Nick to find out more about the business and its growth.
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What were you doing before you set up The Sports Edit?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I worked for a start-up straight out of university in 2000, and then set up three businesses – two in financial services and, now, one in retail. Before The Sports Edit I was lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to set up an investment bank in India, as a joint venture between an Indian family and a European firm, and I was based in the crazy city that is Mumbai for just over three years.
What drew you to the world of activewear?
I think the wider wellness movement is a structural trend that will influence consumer behaviour for decades to come, and is still in its infancy. Activewear is just a part of that, but it’s an important one as fitness moves front and centre in lifestyles. I didn’t feel any UK sports retailer was providing a distinctive and varied range of brands and products curated to meet the two key needs of performance and fashion.
When did you set up the business?
In late 2015. The first year was really tough. I had so much to learn in a new sector. We were still understanding our customer, and building awareness is challenging for new businesses.
What do you look for in the brands that you stock?
Above all, a point of view and a unique style, attitude and strength. Activewear has been growing fast as a market and has therefore attracted a lot of brands, and too many people are recycling the same ideas.
We also focus on discovering brands, making sure we are bringing the best emerging brands to the UK and Europe.
Why do you think fashionable activewear is booming at the moment?
It comes back to this wellness point – in a hyper-connected, fast-paced modern world people are searching more keenly for improvements in their physical and mental well-being than ever before. People are incredibly passionate about fitness, and the more they do it, the more they want active apparel that supports their activities, and allows them to look and feel great in a range of contexts in their busy, active lifestyles.
What are your hopes for the new store in Coal Drops Yard?
As an ecommerce-focused retailer, a new London store was something we thought long and hard about, especially in the current climate. But what we do is not just about fashion. We want to create and inspire a community of people who are passionate about sport, style and wellness. The best connections are made in person, not online, and the right kinds of stores, in the right locations, are still relevant.
The opportunity to create an unforgettable retail experience as part of the prestigious Heatherwick Studios-designed Coal Drop Yards in King’s Cross, with such an eclectic range of brands in an atmospheric destination, was too compelling to miss. We hope it allows us to connect with customers, host amazing events across the King’s Cross estate, and really drive home our brand personality in how we elevate with detail and provide an active lifestyle edit.
How do you stay motivated and creative?
I stay motivated through lots of intense and varied exercise, and also sharing war stories with other entrepreneurs, as it helps you realise that the challenges you face aren’t unique and there are plenty of people out there to guide and support you. I travel a lot, with LA being my favourite city for ideas in my space, and generally I’m absorbing ideas from all sorts of sources.
Loren vintage blue
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
You get advice all the time, but the thing that has stuck with me is the that whatever you can vividly imagine, tenaciously pursue and energetically act upon will invariably come to pass.
Is there anyone from the industry you particularly admire?
What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?
That things are never as bad as they seem. I spent way too much time sweating over setbacks, and experience teaches you that these things are rarely insurmountable.
Favourite clothing brand
Reigning Champ – I love the pared-back simplicity and attention to detail
Favourite places to shop
Online, it’s End. And I’m biased, but I think King’s Cross is evolving into a wonderfully varied destination for shopping and leisure
Last fashion purchase
An AllSaints merino jumper.
A mini-tour of Cyprus.
Last book you read
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Last film you watched?
Technology venture capital analyst
A school friend manages Coldplay, and we’ve all coveted that job for a long time.
What would we find you doing at the weekend
Mostly chasing after my three kids.