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Dec 5, 2016

The Insider

Rod Culverhouse talks about life owning and running FastBreak Sports in Chesham, High Street

How did FastBreak Sports start out?

I was head of PE at a local secondary school and made many contacts through this. When I took early retirement it was to devote more time to the fledgling business, which was started in 1980.

Do you have a sports background outside of school?

Yes, I was always heavily involved in many sports – originally I was a PTI in the RAF before my teaching job.

What’s the secret to FastBreak’s success?

I’d like to think my sense of humour helps. After getting the business under way, I employed two of my trusted ex-pupils (Terry Feist and Steve Hattan) who have remained. They must take much of the credit for the continued development here.

How do you keep customers coming back?

Making sure that they leave the shop happy and satisfied, that we’ve been fair with them. The single most important thing is to have the product they want, or a very close match.

Do you only cater to local customers?

No, we get customers from all over the UK.

What do you stock?

We’re essentially a ‘blood and sweat’ sports shop – nearly all the things we sell are for active sports people. We have a very big range of general products across many sports.

Which brands work best for you?

The ones customers want. Clearly the leading makes such as Nike, Asics, Mizuno and New Balance cover the bulk of footwear, but since swimming, rugby, hockey and cricket cover some of the others, we’re happy to supply brands most associated with these.

Do you have an online arm?

Yes, it started slowly but is expanding. There’s little profit in it as everyone is trying to push prices they offer lower and lower. Once you factor in postage and returns the website is as much a marketing advert as anything else.

What marketing strategies do you have?

Word of mouth, word of mouth, word of mouth. Good words satisfy. One bad word can undo a lot of our efforts.

Why did you get into schoolwear?

It was an obvious requirement – we’re in a central position in the High Street, and busy parents don’t want to go far to get what is essential. The practice was confirmed when the town centre was pedestrianised. Links with the local schools were kept and we gradually moved towards the schoolwear market – mostly PE clothing.

How do you find out about new products?

Sports magazines and trade exhibitions plus general observation. New products don’t necessarily sell well just because they’re new. Customers decide what they want.

What’s the best bit about the business?

Just the pleasure of seeing the many people you get to know and enjoying their contact and custom.

The worst bit?

Nitwits who pinch my parking space behind the shop.

Plans for the future?

Expand the website and develop our existing market.

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