Founders Note - December 2020
As we approach the end of what has been a uniquely challenging year, we wanted to send a personal message to all Castore customers to say a deep and sincere thank you for your continued support. It is no overstatement to say that without you, Castore would not be the brand that it is and have achieved any of the success we have to date. Nor any that will hopefully come. We are truly grateful to each and every one of you for being part of the Castore journey. Thank you.
When we founded Castore four years ago it was with the vision of building a global brand. Not an easy goal to achieve, but the idea of being content with anything less doesn’t appeal to either of us. 2020 has been a year for those willing to be bold and this is an ethos that has always resonated deeply with us. Building an iconic brand was never going to be straightforward – we relish the challenge of taking on obstacle’s others would turn their back on and have embraced every second of it. Hardship ingrains a resilience that cannot be taught and separates the greats from everyone else. The experiences of this year will serve us well for many years to come.
We still have a long way to go of course and in the world of a fast growth brand the next challenge is never far away. Our vision of building Castore into a global brand becomes clearer every single day and we have absolutely no intention of stopping before we get there.
Tom & Phil Beahon
Better Never Stops
Christmas provides the only true opportunity in the calendar to properly step back, reflect on the past and recuperate as we prepare for the next stage. Now feels like the right time to look back - 2020 has been a big year for Castore in many ways and it wouldn’t be right not to mark the occasion without highlighting some of the biggest moments of our year.
The first thing to say is that we have had an incredibly successful year, growing the business by triple digits in an environment when most have suffered great difficulties. This is a testament not only to the incredible commitment and hard work of our team but also the loyalty and continuous support of our customers for which we are eternally grateful. As we ready ourselves to come back even better next year, here are a few of our reflections of 2020.
Fortune Favours The Fearless
The defining memory for us all in 2020 will be Coronavirus and the impact it has had on our lives, not least in the huge death toll suffered globally. Whilst all businesses responded differently to the challenges thrown up, we tried to remain committed to our deeply held belief that it is during the most difficult times that character is formed. Easy words to say – difficult to follow.
Right from the beginning of the UK lockdown in March, we made our people our priority and every one of our staff continued to work and be paid in full throughout the lockdown – we are immensely proud of the fact that not only did we not make any redundancies and increased headcount by 40% this year; we have been taken aback by not only the commitment of our team which can only be described as phenomenal but also the desire for people to join Castore. Creating an environment that we are excited to come into every day and somewhere others are equally excited to come is the hallmark of truly special brands and this year Castore has taken a big step to achieving this goal.
Every crisis leads to opportunity and we hope that our focus on people, product and relentless growth during the most difficult year in memory will be rewarded in 2021 and beyond.
The Glasgow Rangers Football Club
June saw the launch of the biggest partnership in Castore’s history, with Glasgow Rangers FC. This partnership is the first in a major strategic move by Castore to disrupt the global team sports market which for far too long has been dominated by the same small group of mass market brands who have had no incentive to innovate. This clique has led to the sector being left behind by the evolution sweeping through the wider retail market, namely digitisation and this offers a huge opportunity for Castore.
Historically football shirts have been sold to fans through a large and disparate group of third-party wholesale partners, resulting in gradually decreasing product quality and a race to the bottom as retailers looked to out discount each other. This made no sense to us and instinctively felt like something Castore could change. When we make a decision to do anything we want to be aggressive and there are not many bigger clubs we could have started with than Glasgow Rangers.
Our strategy is to partner with a select group of global football clubs and turn the historic model on its head – creating premium, bespoke products and engaging with fans through digital platforms to deliver products in a fast and agile way. Speed is of the essence in the new retail world and we don’t have to be as big as the mega brands to compete – and win – in this arena. To date, Rangers shirt sales have been more than twice the size of last season with their previous kit partner and this performance is a testament to the superiority of the Castore offering.
We will partner with five leading European clubs in the next 18 months and are absolutely delighted that our first partner is Rangers – there are few fan bases in world sport as large and deeply passionate as Rangers fans and the Rangers FC brand is recognised and respected all over the world. Partnering with the team is a responsibility we take very seriously, and we have complete confidence that Castore will make a material contribution to the club’s success – adding the latest chapter to one of the most storied clubs in the sport. No club better represent the Better Never Stops ethos and we are incredibly excited about the next step of the journey.
Garcia Becoming an Icon
Since inception, as a brand Castore has been inspired by product excellence and relentlessly challenging ourselves to create products that are undisputedly superior to our competitors. The product that represents this ethos more than any other is the Garcia hoody. Made from a Castore fabric that is unique in the global sportswear market for its capabilities and ultrasoft Italian interior that provides the perfect fusion of performance and comfort, it is unlike any other product in the world. We have now sold over 25,000 Garcia’s globally since its launch and no product has received a higher review rating. All the great sportswear brands are known for a single iconic product (Stan Smith, Air Max) and the Garcia is now well on its way to achieving similar status.
Defined By Our Athletes
As well as product excellence, the second key tenet we always wanted Castore to be defined by as a brand is the athletes who wear our products. Seeing legends like Andy Murray wear Castore whilst competing on the global stage has filled us with immense pride and if we are to achieve our goal of Castore becoming the number one premium sportswear brand in the world, we want many more like Andy.
We have been searching far and wide for the next athlete who represents the Castore Better Never Stops ethos and could not be more delighted to have recently announced our partnership with England and Saracens rugby captain Owen Farrell. Like Andy, Owen is a truly world class athlete who has committed himself to the relentless pursuit of excellence with a ferocity matched by few others. It is a true privilege that Owen has chosen Castore as his official apparel and kit partner. In keeping with our desire to always be more innovative than our competitors, our partnership with Owen we see Castore launch our inaugural boot range which will be designed in collaboration with Owen himself. This is something we are both very excited about and we will be releasing more information about this early next year.
We never enter into a major athlete partnership without speaking to the individual directly ourselves first – when we met Owen it was immediately clear why he has achieved what he has in the game. With a burning level of intensity during the conversation and an aura that is hard to describe, it is no surprise at all why he has become one of the most respected sporting leaders of his generation. We look forward to him wearing Castore for the next stage of success in his already fantastic career.
Building The Number One Premium Sportswear Brand In The World
From day one we have been inspired by this ambition. It is what made us both give up our jobs and put our lives on the line in setting up Castore. It continues to drive us during the inevitable setbacks and is what makes sure we wake up every day energised about coming into the office.
It’s a strange phenomenon to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it but as an entrepreneur (similar to athletes, actors and other elite performers), the clarity of vision you receive once you make the decision to single-mindedly and absolutely commit to achieving a goal is truly special. It’s almost a relief – nothing else is important and no matter what setbacks you face, it doesn’t matter – if success is your only option it’s only a matter of time before you get there. Being obsessive about becoming successful seems foolhardy to many but for us it is the only mindset which gives us the chance of getting Castore to where we want it to be.
Four years ago, this founding ambition was no more than a pipe dream. Today it is something more. Certainly not inevitable (we know that problems lie behind every corner when building a business and major issues lie in wait for anyone who gets too carried away with themselves) but achievable now feels a more appropriate description. If we stay committed to creating the world’s highest quality sportswear and partnering with athletes and teams who share our Better Never Stops ethos - and of course stay hungry and stay humble – there’s no reason whatsoever why this founding ambition cannot be realised. As a great man once said, you just can’t beat the man who refuses to give up.
Happy New Year and bring on 2021.
Better Never Stops