“I think people recognise that health and wellness is no longer a trend but something that’s here to stay. Our customers are happy to spend money on amazing quality gear that comes with a three-year guarantee.” Thomas Beahon, co-founder, Castore, 2018 Walpole Brand of Tomorrow.
TB: I know! Just two years since my brother, Phil, and I started Castore and we’ve been delighted by how things have gone. I’d love to say that it’s all our entrepreneurial skill but I do think that the market was ready to receive what we had to offer. We totally self-funded the business, moved into a very small flat together and spent some time going around premium gyms and high-end hotels displaying the kit. The brand seemed to resonate really well though, almost straight off the bat, to use a sporting metaphor…
TB: Plenty. Firstly we had lived experience, having both worn sports gear almost every day since the age of 12; I was a professional footballer and Phil a professional cricketer. Once we’d finished with professional sport in our early twenties, we both went into finance for a few years, which was incredibly helpful for setting up a business. We looked at how Sweaty Betty and Lululemon were doing amazingly well, targeting females with high-end products, but couldn’t see anyone providing a premium alternative in the men’s space (though Lululemon does now provide menswear, it didn’t do much at that time). We did market research by speaking to affluent, discerning customers who were willing to pay slightly more for higher quality sportswear – senior lawyers who worked hard but took fitness and health seriously and quickly demonstrated that they were happy to pay more for garments that were really high quality. That gave us the confidence to go ahead and here we are today.
TB: All of the main items are athlete or sporty guy needs – t-shirt, shorts, lightweight jacket, warmer jacket for winter, trousers and boxers that don’t chafe! We recently launched our first compression range, which is selling really well, as is our gym bag, another new addition. There will continue to be new pieces coming in though – we release something every month and invest a lot into new product development.
TB: It’s the quality, first and foremost, from the fabric we choose (there’s lots of technical information on our website) to the athletes who test our pieces to the sports scientists who we rely on to give us scientific proof of how a garment is superior to what the mass market is producing.
TB: Our core customer is an opulent, successful professional who is fairly competitive by nature and puts a lot of that competitive instinct into his sport. He’s the typical triathlete or serious runner. Even though he’s in the office for 60 hours a week, he’s in the gym at 6am training for his particular sport.
TB: Yes, absolutely! I’m 28 and Phil is 25 – I think we come from a generation who take sustainability and an ethical approach to business far more seriously than generations before us. As soon as we started this process, we knew we wanted more than anything to make a product that was robust and durable – one that would last longer than anything related to the fast fashion ideology. All our garments come with a three-year guarantee that’s locked in gold. We are constantly looking at our supply chain to seek ways to further reduce carbon omissions and waste.
TB: Yes, it’s a bit leftfield for Walpole to choose as it is focused on traditional luxury brands and whilst we’re premium I’d say we’re more engineered than luxury. But I also think it reflects the changing times. I think people recognise now that health and wellness is no longer a trend but something that’s here to stay – they’re taking health more seriously, want higher quality gear and are happier to spend money on things that will make them feel good.
TB: So much already, it’s been amazing. We were allocated Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods, as a mentor as part of the Walpole programme. The top three things we’ve learnt from him are: (1) Focus on the customer. Sounds boring, but it’s so important. How can you provide customer with superior focus? (2) Know what your brand stands for. There’s no point in spending all the effort in marketing and getting your brand in front of customers if you don’t know what your brand is. (3) Be focused. It’s easy to get carried away and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Outline the big strategic goals you want to achieve and don’t let yourself get distracted.
Michael was brilliant at bringing us back to what we really wanted. ‘Better never stops’ is our maximum, and we are totally focused on delivering that in all areas.