Sportswear International talked to Noam Sivan, General Manager of Castro Germany, about the brand’s expansion plans in Germany, and the importance of customer relationship.

How is business in Germany developing?

It’s developing very well. At the end of 2009, we opened four stores, three in Germany and one in Switzerland. Basically, we are managing Germany and Switzerland as one market. So in the beginning of 2009 we had a double digit growth and we decided to expand the business. Back then, we had four stores and now we have nine stores, meaning we doubled business in a very short time.

Where do you see Castro’s niche in the German market?
I think one of our unique selling propositions is that we bring new design and energy to Germany. We are an Israeli brand located in Tel Aviv, and one of the things that we brought is the excitement, the energetic and dynamic atmosphere of Tel Aviv. Our designers are also all based in Tel Aviv and I think Tel Aviv has become one of the most fashionable cities in the world. We are just bringing something else to the market.

Do have any further plans for expansion? Have you planned any further stores in Germany?
As I mentioned, we already doubled the number of stores. So we are stabilizing the business right now and try to keep up with the bigger size of the stores and the geographical expansion. What we are trying to do is to build a cluster around Cologne because it is a very big and important city for us. So, yes, we are looking for more locations and, when the time is right, we will go for it.

Are you just focusing on the Cologne area or do you plan to expand into bigger cities and other areas like Hamburg or Berlin?
Germany has the biggest economy in Europe and because of the size of Germany we have to establish an infrastructure around the brand. For management controlling and the logistic part we thought it would be best to stay in the Cologne area. Right now, we have two stores in Cologne, plus one in Leverkusen and one in Münster.

Let’s talk about marketing and customer relationship. How come you started organizing events like private shopping parties you recently held in Münster, Cologne and Stuttgart?
Customer- and shopping experiences are very important. We highly valuate our loyal customers - we have a Castro loyalty program called Castro Friends- so we wanted our loyal customers to enjoy benefits, and the shopping parties are part of it. It is an opportunity to thank our customers - not only with food and drinks, but also with discounts. In addition, the parties are supposed to ring in a new season, like Christmas for example. Basically, they are twice a year.