Crew Clothing’s managing director tells Ana Santi why the retailer is rowing for charity - with the help of Ben Fogle.
You’ve just taken part in a rowing race with TV presenter Ben Fogle. Is that a normal way to spend a Wednesday morning?
Sadly not, but in a couple of weeks I’m going on the office climbing trip. I’ve never done that before. We try to do social things in the office; that builds the brand and gets people involved. If our brand is about getting out and about, you can’t spend all your days in front of the computer. I used to row at university - that’s the last time I’d been in a rowing boat.
The race was part of Crew Clothing and artist Steve McPherson’s ‘Fogle Short’ launch with charity Plastic Oceans. Can you tell us more about this partnership?
We were founded in Salcombe in Devon, where our founder Alastair Parker-Swift and his family are based. We’ve stayed really close to our coastal roots [in terms of product and store locations] so when we got to 20 years old this year, we thought we had to do something special. So we looked for charities around the coast and came up with Plastic Oceans [whose mission is to reduce plastic pollution in the environment]. It’s an incredible charity; the plastic problem is growing exponentially, but it’s something we can really help with.
Between supporting Plastic Oceans, rowing races and climbing trips, Crew Clothing is keen to promote its brand values. Is that vital to the brand’s success?
We’re proud of our values. We are all about beautiful British design and quality for a customer who loves life. All our staff embrace that philosophy. [New ambassador] Ben Fogle typifies the brand values of getting out and about, balancing family, adventure and good causes. And he doesn’t look half bad in shorts!
Crew Clothing has just entered Germany via a transactional website and a catalogue. How is trading there and how have you coped with its online model, where consumers pay for their clothes one month after delivery?
We’ve had a promising start. We chose Germany because we’ve got a good wholesale business there and so far we’re having a good experience of [its online payment model]. Credit card penetration is not that high so customers need to be credit checked first. Our local partner has been great. We’ll probably enter one more [international market] by the end of this year and another next year.
Your online business in the UK is doing rather well too…
Online is growing at 20% and it’s the same customer that shops online as in stores. Click-and-collect has been an important development. It suits male shopping habits - it’s all there, in your size, in the store.