How this Irish athleisure retailer adapted its business model and went back to its roots when crisis knocked

Support independent Irish retailers if you can, says Diarmuid McSweeney, co-founder of Gym+Coffee. 


It's business as usual for one of Ireland's fastest-growing apparel lines, Gym+Coffee, despite it being one of the 'non-essential businesses' that was forced to close its doors this week.

The athleisure brand, which has five physical retail stores in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, has moved its entire business online, where it first started back in 2017.

And co-founder Diarmuid McSweeney is calling on Ireland-based punters who can afford to spend online to support Irish during this pandemic, having been forced to relieve 30 staff of their duties due to store closures.

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Gym+Coffee's spring / summer 2020 collection is available to buy online now. Photos: Gym+Coffee

"If you can support an Irish business, then I would," Diarmuid tells image.ie. "It'll be the people who are living around you in your community who you'll be supporting, you'll be keeping people in work.

"If you can make a conscious choice, then I would really encourage people to do that because I think it'll make a huge difference over the next couple of months. It'll be the difference between how all of our economy bounces back, not just how a small company bounces back once this is over."

Win athleisure wear from the Gym+Coffee spring collection

Diarmuid and his business partners, Karl Swaine and Niall Horgan, had some foresight to stock up on Gym+Coffee products after being warned from their manufacturers in Asia as early as January that Covid-19 was reducing staff numbers.

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Gym+Coffee managed to stock more supply to ensure a steady flow of online orders. Photo: Gym+Coffee

"It's business as usual for us if you want to buy online," says Diarmuid, albeit adapted to the current situation. "Our warehouse team are working away, they've implemented new safety practices there so that they interact less with one another and they're social distancing in the warehouse.

"Deliveries are still going ahead as planned, and when a driver delivers to your door, they don't require a signature unless you really want it.

"We closed all of our stores last Thursday. We made that decision ourselves, for the health and safety of customers entering the store, but mostly for our staff. It was an unnerving time for our staff so we made the decision to close.

Niall Horgan, Diarmuid McSweeney and Karl Swaine set up athleisure brand Gym+Coffee three years ago. Photo: Gym+Coffee

"We're a pretty small company, so we've gone from relying on five channels to all of a sudden just relying on the online channel."

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Diarmuid says it wasn't a goodbye to the staff in the stores, rather Gym+Coffee plans on coming back bigger and better with a new store launch.

"It wasn't a goodbye, we're so looking forward to getting those people back as soon as we can get the stores open again, because they're a huge part of the business.

Diarmuid McSweeney, co-founder of Gym+Coffee, with businesswoman Jo Malone, after winning Samsung's The Pitch in 2019. Photo: Kieran Harnett

"It was all systems go with our Blanchardstown store which was due to open April 4. We had a meeting just two weeks ago and saw the fit-out and everything. It just goes to show how quickly things change. It's a bit disappointing, but there are bigger things at play here so whenever we get to open, it'll be a big launch. It's our biggest store to date and it's the biggest thing we've undertaken so we're really excited to be getting it out there."

The Gym+Coffee digital team is ready to take your order, and Diarmuid promises full stock across its hoodies, crew tops, beanies, T-shirts and accessories.

"The feedback we're getting so far from our community is that they see us as being more relevant now than ever. Okay, you can't go outside and meet others for a coffee or a run or a yoga class, but I found it interesting that whether it's Boris Johnson or Leo Varadkar, they're both saying even in this current climate you can go outside once a day to exercise and how important that is.

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"People are really focused on their health, wellness and fitness at the moment. They just have to apply social distancing to their normal habits."

And of course, Diarmuid is giving the Instagram influencers and their lounge wear hauls a run for their money. "Everyone is working from home, so our comfortable athleisure clothing is ideal for these times."

Sorted for those video conference calls!


For more on Gym+Coffee, see the website.

Gym+Coffee currently has 40% sale on certain items. See here

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