In the second quarter of 2019, Castore has continued to grow rapidly and significant milestones are being achieved at a rate that seems almost unfeasible to people outside the business - for those of us within the eye of the storm however, it has felt like a unique form of creative yet organised chaos and equally importantly, still very much feels like we are only just getting started.
The key focus in this period has been building on the game-changing brand awareness Castore experienced in January 2019 following the announcement of our partnership with Andy Murray. It has been imperative for us to use this moment as a springboard to drive the business forward, particularly as Andy spent a period of time away from the court recovering from hip resurfacing surgery (before returning at Queen's in June).
Whilst there have been a number of headline grabbing achievements, we both agree the most positive aspect of our Q2 performance has been Castore's ability to deliver continued month-on- month growth from a significantly elevated starting point and despite Andy's time away from the court. In a retail market struggling for any form of growth, this is nothing short of exceptional and demonstrates the strong foundations within the Castore brand; built on a deep commitment to new product innovation, a growing network of grassroots ambassadors proudly representing Castore within their communities and the ability of our Better Never Stops brand DNA to resonate deeply with athletes all over the world. If we continue to get these things right, we are confident success can continue and multiply.
As our long term customers who are regular readers of these notes will now be aware, we like to focus the content on three key areas that have been important in the preceding quarter. If any- body have further questions on areas not covered please feel free to email [email protected] and we'll do our best to respond to as many questions as possible.
This quarter has marked the official launch of our Brand Ambassador programme; commencing with 25 individuals hand picked for their talent, value and ambitions, as well as their ability to rep- resent the Castore brand within their local communities. Ranging from elite athletes to world-class performance coaches and weekend warriors - despite their varying backgrounds all share the same commitment to the Better Never Stops ethos.
Launching this programme had been on our minds for some time and we were conscious of waiting for the right moment so that the business was in a position to properly support each person individually as well as the group collectively. We are very excited about the prospect of building out this network and creating a true forum of performance excellence where ambitious people encourage and inspire each other to be the very best they can be. Bringing together inspiring athletes who through their perpetual feedback help us identify the minor amendments that allow product enhancement to occur will play a key role in driving continued product excellence going forward.
Whilst both of us are incredibly competitive by nature, we have found throughout our sporting and businesses careers that being surrounded by people who you can both compete with but more importantly challenge you is hugely and mutually positive. All teams that achieve long term success have this attribute at their core and we know the Brand Ambassador programme will become a fantastic extension of the Castore brand as we expand into new markets around the world.
The coming months we see us starting to host ambassador led events and creating content that will be used to engage and inspire the wider Castore community. The reason we started Castore was to help make athletes better and whilst the initial focus of this has been on creating performance enhancing products, the Ambassador Programme represents an extension to physical and digital engagement and we are very excited to share this journey going forward.
CULTURE OVER STRATEGY
As long term Castore customers will know, both of us are big believers in the power of culture and its ability to make special things happen - this is true of any walk of life but particularly so in business. As the business has grown from only the two of us, packing boxes together every time a delivery arrived (and those special occasions when a customer actually made an order), building a culture has underpinned the business and impacts all aspects of our decision making as founders.
We have made a conscious decision to build a culture of “Extreme Meritocracy". This means creating an environment where people who have ability, work ethic and ambition are actively encouraged and challenged to push themselves and find out how just good they can be.
It is not a culture that appeals to everyone and those people who enjoy a more sedate working environment and sensible work-life balance are not going to fit in. We value age, experience and SO Called expertise far below characteristics such as drive, ambition and willingness to learn. In a modern consumer environment where the rate of change will only continue to accelerate, we believe building a team with these skills will give Castore an edge over our competitors.
Whilst we are very much learning the art of building a culture on the job, we do have complete clarity on the core values we that we instinctively know will underpin Castore for many years to come. Integrity, humility and hard work form the bedrock of our brand and when fused together create a collective attitude that we aim to keep at the forefront of the company every single day.
The words Stay Humble, Stay Hungry are written on the front of the office door - purposefully so everyone sees them each time they enter the business. If we stick to this, we won't go far wrong.
NEW PRODUCT CATEGORIES
Without question the single most important driver of Castore's success, not just in the last 3 months but in the three years we've been in business, has been our willingness to constantly push the boundaries of new product development. Though plenty of logic dictates brands should stay in their lane and stick to what they do best when it comes to new product launches (and the vast majority stick religiously to this rule), we have always held a contrarian view on this.
It is the mindset of wanting to try new things, not being afraid to fail and letting creativity and passion lead decision making rather than text-book thinking that allow Castore to stand out. Q2 has seen the launch of our inaugural Golf collection which so far has proven a great success and our Technical Lifestyle range, by far our boldest product decision to date. We love sport and we love innovation - adding those two elements together has proven very successful for us.
Golf is a sport we are both huge fans of and having started playing (albeit infrequently and poorly), finding it an excellent release from the daily stresses of growing a business - as well as our per-sonal affection for the sport, we are also of the opinion that the golf apparel market is ripe for disruption, having long been dominated by the same clique of mass market brands and distinctly lacking in innovation. It is still early days for Castore Golf but the early signs are extremely positive and it is an area we have huge ambitions for going forward.
Technical Lifestyle has been the most successful collection launch in the history of the business. Though we were initially nervous about moving away from our core sportswear focus, it made sense to us to apply our engineering expertise to an athlete's broader lifestyle. The way people are working, socialising and training is changing and creating products designed to merged between these ever blurring lines is meeting a clear customer need. Our All Day Chinos for example are equally comfortable in the office as on holiday exploring a new city. There is huge demand for hybrid garments and our forward thinking will allow Castore to be ahead on the curve on this and many more opportunities in the future.