IT has blazed on online trail, reaching markets that would be less easily attainable with physical retail and establishing the foundations of what is planned to be a global digital brand.
Now, sportswear specialist Castore, the Rangers kit supplier founded by sporting brothers Tom and Phil Beahon, is poised to double its UK high street presence by opening seven new stores by the end of the year.
The first, opening in Buchanan Street two weeks today, is expected to be followed by one in Edinburgh, another important strategic location for the company, says Tom Beahon in an exclusive interview with The Herald.
“Castore is very much a digitally led brand. That’s where the vast majority of the growth of the business comes from,” he said. “However, my brother and I have both never bought into this mindset that some people talk about that retail is dead and everyone is only going to shop online.
“Particularly for Castore because we are a challenger brand, a disruptor brand, a premium brand. Giving people the opportunity to touch and feel the product and experience the quality for themselves I think is particularly important for us.”
The 2,000 sq ft Glasgow site sees Castore set up its first brand store in the city centre and is in addition to Castore’s partnership store at Rangers FC.
Castore will offer a range of new and exclusive Castore products at the site including the Technical Lifestyle Collection and Garcia Capsule Collection, as well as exclusive Rangers FC product launches.
The firm was founded in 2015 and already has partnerships with world-leading sporting legends and teams including Sir Andy Murray, England Rugby Union captain Owen Farrell, Masters winning golfer Patrick Reed, Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, as well as the Scottish Premiership champions.
Mr Beahon said there is also merit in the shopping experience itself.
He said: “We’ve always thought it makes sense for us to have not hundreds or thousands but select stores in key markets that are important to the brand and to the business, with the opportunity to engage with customers in a different channel.
“It goes without saying that because of our partnership with the football club Glasgow is an absolute key strategic city for us and it is a city that we want to grow our brand in so when the opportunity came up it just made complete sense for us.
“We have seven at the moment and we are hoping to open another seven by the end of 2021. This isn’t like Top Shop back in the day when the only way they could grow would be to open new stores and have stores on every street corner almost.
“This is not that, we are still a digital brand, that is where the vast majority of Castore’s growth comes from.”
He continued: “Digital as a channel is very scalable, I can sell to customer in Hong Kong or Tokyo or South Korea without having store presences there. It is obviously a lot cheaper to do that than having to invest in expensive stores.
“But in those markets where we think again we’ve got really good brand awareness now because of the partnership with Rangers. I think in general because of our partnership with Andy the brand is pretty well known it makes sense for us to have a set number of stores.
“It is true in London which is a key market, it will be true in Manchester we’re looking to open a store here, given that that’s where we have moved the headquarters of the business, we’ve got a store in Liverpool, which is the home of the brand, so in select cities it is something we think makes a lot of sense.”
Elsewhere in Scotland?
“Potentially yes, Edinburgh, in a post-Covid world, there is going to be international tourism.
“There’s a lot of Rangers fans in Edinburgh also so it does make sense for us on that basis as well.”
Mr Beahon, 31, who played football for Tranmere Rovers, and his brother Phil, 28, a former semi-professional cricketer, created the slogan “Better Never Stops” to pitch their products, and say the brand name points to Greek mythological siblings Castor and Pollux.
Mr Beahon added: “We are very busy.
“There’s a moment in time for Castore where we’ve got such a huge opportunity to hopefully do something very exciting.”
The drive for sportswear during lockdown and the digitally-led base meant that “more people than ever before were shopping online so we saw a big boost from that”.
“Those two factors combined with the partnership with Rangers were significant and of course everything that happened last year gave us a massive boost as well.
“Equally our job is we never rest on our laurels, we are always looking to the future and in a post-pandemic world, if you can call it that, I do think people will go back out. They will want to spend their Saturday afternoons in the pub, going shopping with their mates, and we want to make sure that we are in a position to capitalise on that shift.”