This morning I spoke with Tom Beahon, co-founder of Castore, Rangers retail partner. I wanted an open and honest update on the launch of the kit, the latest figures and what the latest update was on the next phase of the deal.
Tom was as honest as ever and speaks very well
HOW DID THE LAUNCH GO AND WHAT ARE YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE PARTNERSHIP?
The launch so far has gone fantastically well. I couldn’t have imagined it going any better if I’m being completely honest. For a new partnership, it is a seminal moment launching the new home kit and for it to have the response that it has had has been fantastic to see. The response from the fans has been fantastic. We have sold, pretty much, 50,000 jerseys within 36 hours, which is an unbelievable achievement and I don’t think there are many clubs in world football that would have the fan base or the ability to sell that many that quickly. That was not just in Scotland or the UK. We have had orders in from America, Canada, Australia, the Middle East. It is the first real, tangible example of just how global Rangers Football Club is and it has been great to see that support and feedback from the fans. I have not dug into the sales data in huge detail yet, it is probably something I will do on Sunday, but based on the high level data I have seen from our finance team during the peak period, we were doing three orders a second through the website. That is a good insight into just how crazy that initial period was, which is fantastic to see. For me, I never want to take it for granted. There had been some snippets of the training kit which started to go onto social media and that had been generally positively received, which was nice. But you never want to take it for granted that fans are going to like the home kit. For it to have had that level of response and to sell a significant amount of product – 50,000 in 36 hours – is a fantastic achievement, it really is, and a demonstration of how passionate the fan base of Rangers Football Club is.
WE DID WARN YOU IT WOULD BE POPULAR! THAT ISN’T A SURPRISE FOR US
Given the history that we are all aware of and because there hadn’t been the opportunity for the fans to buy the product and get behind and support the club in this way… With this new deal, the club benefits directly from every single Rangers product that is sold. We were quietly confident that it could go really well, but 50,000 in 36 hours, if you were to speak to Manchester United or Real Madrid, they would be pretty impressed by those numbers. There are not many clubs in Europe that would deliver those types of figures in such a short period. You did tell us and we were well aware of that so we have got 200,000 additional jerseys on order that will be arriving in August and hopefully that will satisfy the demand for the first part of the season. Our target for the first year is to do 500,000 jerseys. That will be the number, if I’m looking back at this partnership at the first season, and it is going to be a long-term partnership, if we do 500,000 jerseys in the first year I will think ‘you know what, that is a decent performance’. It is really good to have made such a good start but for us now it is about the real hard work and the real excitement is still to come.
CAN YOU GIVE US A GENERAL UPDATE ON INFANT KITS, KITS WITHOUT SPONSORS AND OTHER RECURRING QUESTIONS FROM THE FANS?
They are clearly really important questions and there are a couple of points there. Non-branded, or more subtly branded, products are something that we are very keen to do and they are in the pipeline and ready for launch. We wanted to launch the home jersey as a standalone product but we have a pipeline of new products that are ready for launch from the start of August when we launch the Ibrox Store. The plan is to do a far broader range of products that will include non-branded stuff, which I think is going to be really well received, infant kits.
We have got all of the kit ready and that will be launched on August 1 when we reopen the Ibrox Store and that kit will be going online and in the store. There won’t be too long to wait before we can get the next generation of Gers fans in that kit. We released the Women’s jersey this week and we will be doing an additional Women’s jersey that will go live in the store in August. We have got a pipeline of new product, things that I am really excited about, that will launch from August onwards and that will be dropping into the store and online from August and beyond. The one I am looking forward to next is the away jersey and that will launch on August 1, exclusively in the Ibrox Store. It is going to be an all white strip and I can confirm it is different to the ones that I have seen leaked so far. It is a different design to anything that has been out there doing the rounds on social media and it is probably my favourite. We are very proud of all the stuff, but I think the away jersey really is fantastic, really clean, cool, understated. Really excited to release that and see what the fans’ reaction is. We will have the third strip is well. I think the third jersey is going to be particularly popular.
THERE HAVE BEEN LEAKS OF AN ORANGE AND BLACK STRIP. IS IT CLOSE TO THOSE DESIGNS?
No, not really. To be completely honest, I don’t look at every leak that is out there. It is true to say that it is a black and orange one. Really excited to launch that one as well.
WE SPOKE BEFORE ABOUT YOU SIGNING OVER A £3MILLION TO RANGERS WITH NO GUARANTEES. WE ARE NOW LOOKING WAY ABOVE AND BEYOND THAT ALREADY?
These things are never simple but it is a good question and I will try and talk through it as simply as possible. We pay the club that £3million up front, that is kind of a base fee that the club get, they get that regardless because we want to be associated with the Rangers brand, a worldwide brand. In terms of the product that Castore then sells, we obviously generate revenue through selling the stock and the key point to remember is that not all of that revenue is profit. We have got to spend to design, develop, invest in testing of the product and then make it. If we are selling a shirt for £60, it is costing us, without being too detailed, a decent percentage of that to make the product itself. The simple answer is that we are still some way off being break even on this deal, but equally we haven’t even started the season yet. Based on the initial response so far, hopefully it is going to be a good deal for everyone involved. Another key point is that the club are benefitting from everything we sell so there is a revenue share from every product that is sold. Rangers get their money at the start regardless, but Rangers then benefit from every product that is sold from day one to day 365. A big part of my discussions have been with James Bisgrove and the commercial team and it is fantastic that the fans have shown a great response to the kit, but how are we keeping up that excitement and positivity and momentum for the next two, three, four months and beyond? That is where Rangers are really going to benefit and given the history that we are all aware of, that hasn’t been the case necessarily. What we can now say with complete, categorical certainty, is that any Rangers product that is sold anywhere in the world throughout the partnership with Castore, Rangers are benefiting from. That is a key difference from what has been the case in the past and really gives us that collaborative mindset to work together. I said it before, Castore only benefits if Rangers benefits and that is the type of deal and partnership we want to have with the club.
WHEN SPORTS DIRECT SAID THEY HAD EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS, THAT SENT PANIC THROUGH THE SUPPORT UNTIL RANGERS CLARIFIED IT. CAN YOU EXPLAIN A BIT ABOUT WHY THIS HAS HAPPENED AND THE THOUGHTS BEHIND IT?
Yeah, absolutely. This is an absolutely key point and I am well aware of the history between Rangers and Sports Direct, in particular, as well as other parties. You guys, as fans, are even more aware than me because you have lived it for the last couple of years. The first thing, and I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but it is 100 per cent completely true is that this partnership is a partnership solely between Castore and Rangers. It is a two-way partnership that has been constructed in a way that is not normal in football deals in that Rangers benefit in everything that we do. That is not always the case, other people don’t always do deals that way. That is first and an important thing to say. The second is that I am not an avid follower of social media and I try to keep myself away, for my own sanity as much as anything else. When I see rumours about Mike Ashley being a shareholder in Castore or having some sort of affiliation with Castore it is surprising as we have been 100% clear this is not the case on several occasions now. Mike Ashley or Sports Direct have no shareholding or involvement at any level in my business. There are only so many times or ways I can say that before people believe me. I know people have their own opinions but that is the complete and unambiguous truth. Mike Ashley has got nothing to do with Castore in any way, shape or form. The second point you mentioned that is key and important is around Sports Direct, and other high street retailers, having the desire to sell Rangers product. I don’t want to overstep my boundaries because I know Rangers will speak to you on this as well. Hopefully as you and I get to know each other more over the coming weeks, months, years and multiple years as part of this partnership, you will realise that I will always be honest. The truth is that Rangers were in a really difficult position given their previous deals, due to well documented and long term legacy issues. Whatever brand came in and offered, we knew Sports Direct had a legal right to match that deal and if they so chose they could have kept Rangers as a partner pretty much for however long they wanted. This could have been an endless situation for Rangers. That was the situation when we came in and did our partnership directly with Rangers. What Sports Direct looked for in order not to exercise their legal right to match was an ability to sell a limited number of Rangers product, as occurs commonly with club kit partners and high street retailers, again that is not in any way strange of different and would be the case in other deals. Under our direct partnership between Castore and Rangers, Sports Direct, as well as several other third party retailers, will have the option to purchase from Castore and then the ability to sell Rangers products. That is the situation. It is worth reiterating, whatever Rangers product is sold anywhere in the world, whether it is through Sports Direct, through Greaves, through Rebel Sports over in Sydney, Rangers Football Club is benefiting from that, Rangers Football Club will earn a royalty on all of those sales. That is the situation as it stands and is not abnormal. If you look at Liverpool’s new kit deal with Nike, Adidas with Man Utd, that is normal. Rangers, it is not my business and place to analyse the past, but the deal with Castore is a standard deal, it is more in-line with the marketplace compared to the deal that you guys had previously. It is not my place to comment on it in too much detail, but that deal was probably not standard and not wholly beneficial to the club. The club now have a deal, and the fans have 100 per cent knowledge, that if they are purchasing Rangers product they are supporting their football club. That, to me, is a big step forward and a fantastic move for the club.
THE REACTION WAS TO BE EXPECTED FROM THE FANS BUT WHAT YOU HAVE SAID AND WHAT THE CLUB HAVE SAID CLARIFIES IT. GOING FORWARD, WE ARE AWARE OF IT AND THERE IS NO NEED TO HAVE THIS SITUATION AGAIN.
I don’t say these words lightly, but relationships aren’t built overnight and it is going to take the fans time to trust Castore that we create good products and deliver them when I say we are going to deliver them. If I come on and I am making a commitment that we are going to be able to do 500,000 jerseys a year, it is up to me to back that up and you guys are going to expect me to back up words with actions. We are right at the start of this relationship, we have made a great start with 50,000 jerseys, which is a phenomenal achievement and I am really proud of Castore and proud that Rangers fan base is so big and solid. I sensed that would be the case but it is fantastic to see that confirmed. I am, of course, completely aware of that history. I very much hope that going forward in 12, 18, 24 months, all this stuff will be old news and my hope and expectation is that this kind of stuff with Sports Direct is old news and people are saying ‘I can go to the Rangers Store to buy my kit, I can buy it online, I can buy it in high street retailers’ and that they have a choice. It is a free market that we live in. The new partnership is to get us to that place.
WE SPOKE BEFORE ABOUT A BALLPARK FIGURE THAT THE CLUB COULD EARN WE LOOKED AT BETWEEN £5-9MILLION. BASED ON THE FIRST COUPLE OF DAYS, ARE THOSE TARGETS REALISTIC?
Yes. Very simply, yes. £5, 6, 7, 8 million, based on what the club has already been paid and what I… although I never like to be overly confident because anything can happen in the world, as Covid-19 has shown. But based on the first 36 hours of sales we have seen, what we have got in the pipeline for products and the fans’ reaction, I think those numbers are eminently achievable. I said it the last time you and I spoke that Rangers should be on par with the leading clubs in the Premier League and leading European clubs and that is why Castore are so excited about this partnership. We think there is a fantastic opportunity to get the club to those levels. If we do get to those levels, then £7million or £8million is achievable for the football club. I will also say that the season after this one is clearly huge for the club with their 150th anniversary and, for me, we can go beyond those numbers, which is incredibly exciting. Everyone involved in Rangers Football Club is competitive and wants to win games and win trophies. I am pretty competitive myself and while we don’t have the opportunity to win trophies, we do have targets to achieve and succeed and our target for Rangers is to get the club back into the top tier, not just of Scottish football but alongside English and European clubs. If we achieve that, the numbers are naturally going to follow. That is what drives me, I need those challenges and it is a fantastic challenge. We have made a great start and hopefully the best is still to come.
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