Castore is setting the pace on the sportswear scene with its premium gear
The company, founded last year by two brothers and ex-professionals, footballer Tom Beahon and Lancashire cricketer Phil, produces upmarket men’s ranges, from tops to cramp-fighting compression pants, made of super light, durable and breathable fabrics designed in house.
Now in the midst its first external equity raise, the £1.2 million it is seeking will come from angel investors “with online and international brand development expertise,” says Tom, 26.
Being a UK sportswear label in market dominated by mega multinationals is not so common, however the fact that small, independent Castore has also developed its own patented carbon-mesh fabric technology puts it in a different league.
But creating that commercial model, with all its inherent investment costs, was only way to capture the new kind of global customer borne of changing social trends that they had spotted, explains Tom.
There is every reason to believe we can be the premium alternative to Adidas and Nike
“There has been a distinct shift in people from all walks of life taking health and fitness far more seriously. At home that has been helped by more funding for sports, national success and the community feeling all that fosters at the grassroots.
“Particularly relevant for Castore has been men aged 30 to 50, often in professional jobs and working long hours, deciding they want to get fit for the first time in years.
Castore has developed its own patented carbon-mesh fabric technology
“These often have disposable income, perhaps compete in amateur events and want the very best sportswear to maximise their training.
“They are not ultra athletes, more discerning gym goers, but all part of a new category that is turning away from the mass market.”
All Castore’s garments are woven exclusively “and our fabric has the best weight to strength ratio of any available,” he adds.
“That’s a combination of advanced engineering and elite athlete testing over 60 days in the UK.”
The company, which manufactures in Portugal and fulfils directly from its Liverpool HQ, now employs 12 with recruitment plans for another four.
“But it wasn’t easy at first to find a factory that understood our priority was innovation, as the sportswear market generally is geared to traditional mass market volumes and price,” says Phil.
Selling in 24 countries, overseas accounts for 40 per cent of Castore’s sales
After £700,000 of investment including a £50,000 Virgin Start-ups loan, backing from “very supportive” NatWest for research and development and work on a new international website, the company is forecasting its £650,000 turnover via its website and events will rise to £2.1 million next year.
Now selling in 24 countries, overseas accounts for 40 per cent of sales.
Most popular is its £245 weather-resistant and breathable Rix Jacket, but Castore’s trousers are showing signs of becoming bestsellers too “because they are a hybrid garment with both a performance element but easily wearable if you want to go for a coffee,” continues Tom.
“Our packaging is personalised and with the data we get to know what customers like so if we have a shorts fan for instance we make sure to offer him our latest style when it comes out.”
After exploring reshoring to the UK, they have decided it remains too expensive. But producing niche accessory lines here such as compression sleeves is a distinct possibility.
The company is forecasting its £650,000 turnover will rise to £2.1million next year
The Beahons’ 50:50 bricks’n’clicks strategy is a “long distance one” they say which will see them open their first store in London’s Canary Wharf in December followed by ones in Hong Kong and possibly Dubai.
Many of the new customers could be triathletes they predict after witnessing take-up rocket.
And with the focus increasingly on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics the pair have opened the Castore Academy to support young, talented athletes hoping to make the grade.
Their own particular combination, a kind of dream team composed of sibling trust and the expertise that comes from being their own customers, has helped lay the foundations for a business ready to challenge the biggest guys.
“From day one sales have exceeded expectations,” they say. “There is every reason to believe we can be the premium alternative to Adidas and Nike.”