Congrats on the store launch in Chelsea!
Thanks very much. The response from customers has been fantastic. This is our most ambitious store yet – we have trialled pop-up stores before, but see this as our flagship, on one of the world’s most prestigious shopping streets. Opening the King’s Road store is a real statement of intent in our ambitions for Castore.
Tell me a bit about the Castore story.
I co-founded Castore with my brother Phil in 2015. We both come from sporting backgrounds and always knew we wanted to start a business together. We saw a major gap in the global sportswear market for a premium brand as the sector has always been dominated by mass market operators.
To compete with the big boys we had to create products that were superior and our customer loyalty is testament of our focus on product excellence.
We started the business with our own savings and support from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin StartUp scheme and since then have secured funding from a number of high-profile investors. The business has grown rapidly and now sells into over 45 countries worldwide.
You have Andy Murray as a one of your ambassadors! That’s amazing.
His fitness coach wore Castore and Andy really liked the product and brand story. When we met we got on really well straight away and working together came naturally. To have the support of a sporting icon like Andy has been fantastic.
It’s far more than a sponsorship deal because he’s become a shareholder and adviser to the business and brings invaluable experience of what elite athletes want and need from their apparel.
We pride ourselves on our relentless focus on finding marginal gains and Andy definitely shares this ethos. This is an eight year partnership and both sides are in it for the long term.
Is there scope to expand Castore’s store estate?
Castore is a digitally native brand and online will remain the primary driver of our continued growth. However, we see physical stores as having a key role in how we attract new customers and allow them to experience the Castore DNA in a way that is different to the online experience.
We expect to open flagship stores in key markets including London, Hong Kong and New York to really bring the brand to life and will continue working with retailers such as Harrods, Selfridges, Mr Porter and Matchesfashion who sell Castore.
What gap in the UK retail market does Castore strive to address?
We instinctively knew there was an obvious gap for a premium sportswear brand with a deep commitment to innovation, engineering and creating the highest quality products in the market.
There is a significant number of discerning customers and athletes who appreciate this superior quality. Castore also has a proudly British heritage.
Brands like Aston Martin and Bentley have established themselves as global leaders in the car industry and I see no reason why Castore can’t do the same in sportswear.
How is Castore’s business model different to other sportswear retailers?
Our digital first model has allowed Castore to capitalise on the digitisation of the consumer sector and the business has grown far more rapidly than would have been possible if we’d launched even five years ago.
We have a deep understanding of what customers want and can react more quickly than our competitors. This means our customers really engage with the brand as they know we take what they tell us seriously.
This customer-led model is not something any of the mass market brands can match and is a key competitive advantage for Castore.
“We believe the high street has a future, but people love the convenience of shopping online”
Customers also love Castore’s story of two brothers who had the guts to take on the big guys – that authenticity can’t be manufactured.
What’s in store for Castore for 2020?
Next year is going to be huge. We will launch our first team kit partnership with a leading international federation which is a major milestone for us.
Our vision is to build Castore into the number one premium sportswear brand in the world and kit partnerships with leading teams across multiple sports will play a key role in achieving this. We have also identified a number of elite athletes we are looking to bring on board which is a powerful tool in driving brand awareness and giving us authority as a creator of world-leading performance garments.
Our product development pipeline is stacked with new innovations and the range will expand further as we launch womenswear. I’m already excited to bring it all to life.
How is Castore addressing some of the challenges facing the retail industry?
Castore is right at the heart of the digital age in retailing. We believe the high street has a future, but people love the convenience of shopping online.
They are also very demanding and retailers have got to offer top quality goods and service otherwise shoppers can go elsewhere at the click of a button. I think a key element so many people are missing is the importance of brand – having a compelling story and proposition that people connect with is key to success no matter what the channel.
What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector at the moment?
I am very bullish about the outlook for the retail sector. The challenges for the high street will continue but this is simply the destructive chaos of entrepreneurial capitalism in action and consumers will be the ultimate beneficiaries.
There will be winners and losers and those able to adapt most quickly will come out on top – that’s a significant advantage for challenger brands like Castore.
We need to leave the EU with the minimum of damage to our relationship with our European customers and this offers a fantastic opportunity to also build relationships with other markets such as the US, China and India. As a sector, our mindset should be one of optimism.
“The sportswear sector is a multi-billion dollar market, so the prize for getting it right is huge”
Describe your role and responsibilities at Castore.
Phil and I are both co-founders and co-chief executives. We are very fortunate to have a relationship built on an inherent trust that takes years to develop and are very close both inside and outside of work.
In the early years of the businesses life we were both very hands-on across all aspects of the company – as Castore started to scale though we have looked to professionalise the structure of the organisation.
I now focus more on business development and brand with Phil responsible for product and innovation. For all other areas of the business we look to bring in specialists.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Castore.
We were born and bred on Merseyside. I was a professional footballer and played for Tranmere Rovers and for Jerez in Spain, Phil was a semi-professional cricketer for Cheshire.
We were both good but not good enough to get to the very top level and shared a view that we would rather take the risk in starting a business and try to be good at that rather than accept being mediocre athletes.
Fortunately, success in business is far more reliant on work ethic, resilience and sheer bloody mindedness than in sport where natural talent is required.
What got you into retail in the first place?
Sportswear was a natural choice for us as we are both very passionate about sport and the lack of premium alternatives to the big brands was so obvious to us. I have also always been fascinated about the concept of building a brand.
Creating something that people connect with on an emotive level is incredibly exciting and the daily cut and thrust of retail, where you have a constant reminder of your performance in the form of sales data and customer feedback, really appeals to my sense of competition.
The sportswear sector is a multi-billion dollar market, so the prize for getting it right is huge.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
People. Phil and I knew from the outset of starting Castore that we wanted to build a high performance culture where people were given a lot of opportunity and responsibility but also where expectations were very high.
People are given all of the tools they need but then are expected to deliver. This isn’t for everybody and finding people who not only survive but thrive in this environment isn’t easy.
When we have found the right people though, they have made a real difference to the business – and fortunately they rarely want to leave.
And the most rewarding?
Seeing athletes all over the world buy into the brand and our Better Never Stops DNA has been incredibly inspiring and makes all of the hard work worth it.
It has been brilliant seeing world-class athletes like Andy Murray wearing our products on a global stage and Castore becoming recognised as a new challenger to the big brands.
We are still very early on in our journey as a brand though and the best is definitely still to come.
What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?
The sector will continue to be rapidly disrupted and the future belongs to those who thrive on innovation – to be successful you must teach yourself to think innovatively about everything you do.
Consumers will always love authenticity – that will never change. Find a way to combine authenticity with technology and you are going to be on the winning side.