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Martial arts clothing brand Progress JJ doubles sales to £2.4 million after celebrities spark a boom in fighting gear

Martial arts clothing brand Progress JJ has doubled sales to £2.4 million after celebrities sparked a boom in fighting gear.

The firm, which supplies stylish jiu jitsu sportswear kit and is based in Manchester, is a worldwide success – selling in more than 75 countries.

Well known fans of Brazilian Jiu jitsu include Tesla’s Elon Musk and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Hollywood stars Tom Hardy and Henry Cavill.

It is is the world’s fastest growing martial art.

Progress JJ  likes to celebrate its Manchester origins with kimonos and gi fighting jackets and trousers named after local landmarks such as the M6.

The firm was supported by the Northern Powerhouse last year, securing six figure funding to drive export growth.

Progress JJ was ranked second last year in Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 league table of the UK’s fastest growing ecommerce brands.

James Tighe, the founder and chief executive, is an intermediate purple belt fighter and he talks about the success of Progress JJ on Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking Podcast.

Working with his father Denis and his nephew Sam, Tighe has grown the business rapidly in the last three years.

He said: “This is very much a family business, created after we all fell in love with the Brazilian jiu jitsu sport.

 “Our dream was to one day quit our jobs and work on the brand full time, being involved with the jiu jitsu community, to help it grow as much as we could.

“Fast forward to January 2021, we finally achieved our goal and launched the brand full time from our distribution centre at Trafford Park.

“We have not looked back since and have our amazing customers to thank for giving us the best job in the world.

“We take great pride in being from Manchester and the city’s culture and history influences a lot of our designs such as M6 kimonos and gi wear.

“We add more value to the jiu jitsu community than we take out and our mission is to create the best products and projects that motivate and inspire all Jiu Jitsu athletes to Progress.

“We’re growing at a really good rate at the minute, which obviously comes with problems and challenges, but we are getting on top of things now.”

Sales growth has been rapid – going up from £268,000 in the first full year to £1.2 million in the second year.

It doubled again to £2.4 million in the last financial year which ended in April, with profits of £144,000 – up from £47,000 the previous year.

Revenue is expected to almost double again in the In the next year to £4.5 million.

Two exciting projects have just launched.

Progress JJ supports the RAF’s jiu jitsu team and it has teamed up with Gymshark for a recent collaboration.

The firm currently has seven staff and its headquarters is at the Westbrook Trading Estate at Trafford Park.

Tiighe, 41, said a big  part of its success has been introducing Inventory Planner stock planning software which has boosted profitability and efficiency.

He said: “Inventory planner has helped us get much more accurate purchase invoices, so much less stock is being under and over sold.

“It has really boosted our efficiency and profitability and ensured that we are not tying up cash. It has made sure that we always have available supplies of our best selling products.”

Tighe explained on the L50 podcast how Brexit had been a “nightmare” and the brand had incurred extra costs to comply with the new rules including opening a warehouse in Spain to serve its customers in the European Union.

A priority going forward is a push in America where the jiu jitsu market is 20 times the size of the UK.

Jiu jitsu’s growing popularity is due it being one of the main martial arts used by cage fighters in the UFC (Ultimate Fight Championship) bouts screened in many countries across the globe.

The mixed martial arts sport hit the headlines over the summer when Mark Zuckerberg challenged fellow billionaire Elon Musk to a jiu jitsu cage fight. They both regularly train in the sport.

Jiu jitsu is a self-defence martial art based on grappling, ground fighting and submission holds.

Speaking on the L50 podcast, Tighe said that lots of people are taking up jiu jitsu thanks to UFC.

He said: “People have started really getting involved in watching and training in mixed martial arts.

“A lot of people don’t like boxing or getting punched or kicked in the face, so people naturally sort of gravitate to the sport which is a little bit less intense, which is jiu jitsu, a more gentle martial art.

“It’s kind of like a combination of judo and wrestling, but you don’t really get hurt.

“I think that’s why people love training. People start training in their 40s, 50s or even into their 60s. It’s not like a lot of other sports where it requires a lot of physical attributes – anyone can do it.”

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