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Crew Clothing Co.

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Quality British casual clothing

Crew Clothing Co. is a British clothing brand with a wide range of active, outdoor and casual wear for men and women. Its heritage is in its south-coast roots, having been started in the back of a windsurfing school in Salcombe in 1993 by managing director, Alastair Parker-Swift.  He took his small but distinctive collection to the ultimate testing ground - Cowes Week - on the Isle of Wight, where he sold out of all his stock.  

By the time Alastair met with Livingbridge the business had grown and he wanted to stay on whilst realising some of his cash. He said, “The bank had the deeds to my house – I’d given them everything to grow the business and we were limited by what we could do and what I was prepared to risk.” Livingbridge’s investment has enabled the brand to grow, and it has since evolved into the premium active and casual wear retailer, while still retaining its unique heritage and position.

 

Doubling store numbers with the right crew in place

  • The transaction allowed the founder to realise part of his shareholding whilst also bringing other key members of the management team into the equity structure. Alastair commented, “I was obviously staying on and I wanted a partner, not just a bank and an overdraft. So it wasn’t just about the payday, but a relationship that needed to last.” 
  • The first consideration was to bolster the senior team. We introduced an experienced chairman and a new finance director. This was supported by investment in design, marketing and merchandising expertise recruitment. 
  • This new structure professionalised the business, bringing in daily reporting and coherent KPI reporting. The finance director commented in 2008, “A consistent report format means we can measure ourselves against budget and the prior year, and start to really manage our business on a daily basis. We can identify problems and resolve them on a weekly basis whereas, before, we didn’t have the background data and support.”
  • One of the principle aims was for a bold consumer rollout strategy, and Crew Clothing went from 34 retail outlets at time of investment to 75 stores nationwide in 2016. Andrew Garside, Livingbridge, commented, “The roll-out plan for stores was relatively straightforward. We knew how the stores should look and feel, and which towns to target. We just needed to do more of them and get the right sites on the right terms.”

 

 “I can honestly say that when we agreed the deal, it was everything I hoped it would be. When you’re an owner and founder of a business for 14 years, and living and breathing it is all you’ve done, releasing any equity is a very difficult decision – but I’ve never looked back. A good deal is when both parties go away thinking they got a good deal.”

Alastair Parker-Swift, Founder  

Timeline

1993

First retail site in Salcombe opened 

1994

Crew produces designs for England Polo team and the Cartier International Polo event

1995

First office opens in New Kings Road, London

2006

Livingbridge acquires 25% of Crew Clothing Co as part of a £7.75 million transaction 

2006

Appointment of chairman and FD

2008

Sales forecast to exceed £20m. Approaching 50 retail sites

2016

75th store opened