Lightning 50: Top 10 UK Brands Uncovered

The results are in! The UK’s fastest-growing online businesses have just been revealed in Brightpearl’s annual Lightning 50 league table.

Researchers tracked growth rates for hundreds of companies across Britain to find the fastest growing e-commerce brands of the last year. Each of the businesses that made the list achieved impressive growth against the turbulent backdrop of rising prices, supply chain struggles and wavering consumer demand.

However, the brands that ranked from first to tenth place made extraordinary progress, registering a combined revenue of £​​103,097,623 for 2021, and an average growth rate of 309%.

Analysis: London-led, Tech-powered, customer-focussed

So what do the top 10 UK-based brands on the Lightning 50 have in common? 

  • The top 10 is dominated by the brands based in London (with three out of five of the top five brands operating from the capital) but the North West is the hottest region for e-commerce this year, with three North West-based brands in the top 10 (and five in the full list)
  • The top two fastest growing brands in the UK are in the sports, hobbies and leisure sector. There are also three brands from the healthy & beauty sector and three apparel, fashion and footwear brands.
  • Every brand on the top 10 has flagged the invaluable role that technology plays in driving their growth – from using Brightpearl as their Retail Operating System to using Shopify to run their webstore and Klaviyo to manage their email marketing.  
  • Customer service counts – the top 10 brands have an average Trustpilot rating of 4.5.

Sara Arthrell, VP of Product at Brightpearl, says the percentage growth increases for the brands in the top 10 of this year’s Lightning 50 are astronomical. 

Sara says: “London leads the way, but it’s fascinating to see the North West is the hottest region for e-commerce growth this year – giving the capital a run for its money. 

“The top 10 results also clearly prove that great customer service and a slick, flexible tech stack are absolutely critical for brands that want to grow fearlessly. We’re excited to see what these companies will achieve next.”

Meet the brands

1. Pinter

UK winner | UK’s Fastest Growing Sports, Leisure & Hobbies Company  | Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 626%

Born mid-pandemic, Pinter is a London-based e-commerce brand on a mission to change the way people drink beer at home so that it’s kinder to the planet. It uses precision-engineered technology so that anyone can enjoy 10 pints of award-winning Fresh Beer at home. 

Listed in Time magazine’s 100 Best Inventions of 2020, Pinter sells everything you need to start Fresh Brewing directly to its customers via its website and app. No water is shipped which cuts the transit weight by 75%, resulting in huge CO2 emissions savings – a single Pinter Pack replaces 17 bottles or cans of beer. 

The rapidly-growing brand won the top spot on the Lightning 50 UK after achieving a staggering 626% leap in revenue in 2020-21. A combination of great tech tools, including a Shopify-powered webstore, slick Facebook marketing and the nature of being the first product of its kind has helped drive the brand’s success. 

Head of PR and Partnerships, Alexander King, says:  “Facebook is our top performing sales acquisition channel with the lowest CPA. We have been able to reach and optimize towards audiences that are most likely to convert.

“As we have built our business on a subscription model, email is a vital channel for us. Klaviyo has helped fuel customer growth through its easy to use smart email management system. We’ve built a very loyal and active community and to date we’ve raised over £20m in investment to use in operations, product development and marketing.”

2. Progress JJ Limited

Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 446%

Launched in Manchester in 2012, Progress is an online webstore that specializes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu clothing and equipment. 

The brand credits smart marketing and the growing popularity of Jiu Jitsu with driving its 446% growth rate this year, which earned it second place on the Lightning 50 UK. 

Founder James says: “People looking to work out more post-Covid has helped – plus the sport is growing exponentially.

“We’ve been relentless with our sales and marketing strategy, which is backed up by a very strong brand story and message. We also believe we offer best in class products.  We research and work closely with our manufacturing partners to push the boundaries of our martial arts uniforms.”

3. Passenger Clothing Limited

UK’s Fastest Growing Fashion Brand  | Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 362%

Founded in 2012 by Richard Sutcliffe, Passenger creates quality, sustainable clothing for men and women that’s designed to inspire travel, exploration and escapism. The brand has earned a solid reputation for its ‘adventure first, product second’ philosophy and its mission to help people escape everyday life and enjoy their own journey. 

After growing rapidly (it achieved 362% growth in 2020-21), the brand was keen to boost visibility and bring its operations together into a central source of truth. It was drawn to Brightpearl for its robust, customizable functionality and its range of out-of-the-box integrations. Passenger, which does 95% of its sales DTC via its webstore, implemented the system earlier this year and hasn’t looked back.

CEO Jon Lane says: “We have focused on delivering our 5P framework for sustainable growth – Proposition, People, Platform, Processes and Product. We have rebuilt the company over the last 3 years in all these areas, transforming its ability to scale whilst heavily investing in product and brand.”

4. Kick Game

Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 353%

Kick Game is a London-based luxury retailer, specializing in rare and exclusive sneakers and apparel from top brands like Nike, Off-White, Air Jordan, Supreme and Yeezy. 

The sneakers and streetwear store was founded in 2013 by London brothers David and Robert Franks and has had an incredible year, achieving a growth rate of 353%. It operates a popular online store alongside physical stores in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. 

Alicia Thompson says: “Our marketing content and building of our community, alongside curating the most premium and rare, sold-out sneakers from around the globe has helped us achieve this growth. There has also been a shift in fashion trends towards streetwear and sneakers.

“Our online sales are driven through direct, organic search and paid search via Google and social. YouTube has been a key technology for us – we use it to host longer-form marketing films and content.”

5. Wild Cosmetics Limited

UK’s Fastest Growing Health & Beauty Brand  | Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 322%

Wild is the world’s first compostable refill natural deodorant that is fully sustainable. It’s delivered straight to the doors of customers based on a subscription model (with the option of one-off purchasing) and is powered by a slick Shopify website. 

The London-based brand was crowned the UK’s Fastest Growing Health & Beauty Brand and awarded fifth place on the Lightning 50 UK after achieving 322% growth. 

Head of Finance Arthur Edson says: “We’ve diversified our channel mix and targeted our spending towards the highest value customer cohorts which has helped drive growth. 

“We’ve also expanded into Europe and focussed on upselling and bundling items to increase average order value. Our key technologies have been Shopify, Instagram, Facebook and Google.”

6. Naturecan

Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 220%

Naturecan was founded in May 2019 by Andy Duckworth, the former CEO of Myprotein. It’s a global wellness brand focused on offering safe, effective and premium hemp-derived CBD products as well as additional supplements such as vitamins and minerals.

The North West-based brand grew by 220% in the last 12 months, and acknowledges Brightpearl, Instagram and Shopify as the tech tools that have helped them achieve it. 

CEO and Co-Founder Andy Duckworth says: “Great people, strong marketing and a focus on our supply chain have also helped us grow.”

7. Naturewall Group Ltd

UK’s Fastest Growing DIY & Gardening Brand  | Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 211%

The highest ranked DIY and gardening brand on this year’s Lightning 50 is NatureWall with a 211% growth rate. Specializing in real wood wall panels which are lightweight and easy to fit thanks to innovative Peel and Stick technology, NatureWall is a Hull-based business that has more than doubled its revenue in the last year. 

The brand shared that Shopify and PPC advertising have been major drivers of growth, alongside smart tech tools like the Looz review platform which enables image-based reviews of products in-situ. 

Head of Marketing Esme Westmoreland says: “New product development has also been a key factor in our growth. The introduction of SlatWall in 2020 hit the trend at the right time and we have expanded on this by introducing new colors and variations of this product range. As we’re the only UK manufacturer of SlatWall, this is also an advantage.”

8. Centre of Excellence

Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 207%

Centre of Excellence (COE) provides certified, award-winning courses to learners in 150 countries. Through a bespoke eLearning platform and mobile app, COE’s customers can learn everything from History to Hobbies to Herbalism.

The company, which recorded a 207% growth rate for the last year, has been awarded 4.9 stars on Trustpilot by nearly 5,000 learners. It’s built a social media following of 2.4 million people alongside a 76,000-strong ‘Study Group’ community, where learners connect and share their achievements. Smartly, Facebook and Omnisend have been the brand’s most crucial technologies. 

Founder and CEO Sara Jones says: “We’ve grown due to acting on customer feedback and bringing out new products and services that they have requested. Our new subscription model and app have been really successful.”

9. Tradeprices Bathrooms

Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 175%

Founded in 2012, Tradeprices Bathrooms has quickly established itself as one of the fastest growing retailers of branded bathrooms and accessories. Following award wins in both Welsh and UK bathroom awards, the Cardiff-based business prides itself on exceptional quality products and service.

The firm’s rapid growth has culminated in a 175% revenue jump in 2021, securing it ninth place in the Lightning 50

Gavin Smith, Managing Director at Tradeprices Bathrooms, says: “We’ve made huge changes in the last year to improve our marketing and we’ve now amassed over 100k followers across Facebook and Instagram.

“We really try to develop unique USPs so our customers can customize a bathroom to what they need, rather than us pushing standard bathrooms like everyone else.”

10. Gym + Coffee

Top 10 Finalist | Revenue growth: 169%

Gym + Coffee is a fashion brand that specializes in activewear designed for ‘people who believe in early morning runs, comfy hoodies and lazy Sunday coffees’. It’s especially well known for its ‘world-class’ range of hoodies.

The DTC brand sells online via a Shopify-powered webstore and also has physical ‘clubhouses’ in Liverpool, Belfast and Manchester. The multichannel brand grew by 169% to bag tenth place on the Lightning 50 UK, and reports that Shopify, Klaviyo and its logistics partners have played a crucial role in its success. 

Co-founder Diarmuid McSweeney says: “A steady flow of new customers from a number of channels has helped – but there is much more to Gym+Coffee than digital performance. 

“We have built the brand around our community, we engage with them through events, partnerships,  at our retail clubhouses and via our digital content. In the last year we have been able to bring the full G+C brand experience to the UK audience for the first time since Covid and this has driven significant growth.”

Want to know which other brands made the Lightning 50? Check out the full list here.

The Lightning 50 was open to all e-commerce businesses with annual turnovers from £/$1M-250M. Entry was free and applicants were asked to submit two full years of revenue data for 2020 and 2021 to be considered.