22 August 2016
As the owner of Crosby Shoe Agencies and the son of a well-established footwear retailer, Gus Marshall had two perspectives in mind when he attended Moda Footwear this month. Here he explains how he is driving his brands forward for spring, and why he wasn’t always destined to be the life and sole of the shoe trade.
Q: How did you get into the footwear trade?
If you will excuse the very poor pun, I spent most of life trying not to follow in the footsteps of my father, grandfather and great grandfather before him. I trained as an actor for three years and applied to the Royal Marines, but then injured my knee badly. It was over a pint with my dad Andrew Marshall – owner of Cumbria footwear chain Strolling 4 Shoes – that I realised I did have an interest in continuing with the Marshall trade. So, in 2010 I set off in Renault Clio with no customers and no brands and Crosby Shoe Agencies was born.
Q: How has the agency grown over the past six years?
I am very fortunate to now be a sub agent for Bugatti Footwear (Bench Grade Brands) and Earth Spirit (West Midland Shoe Co) and the main UK and Ireland agent for Mjus and AS98. We have also recently taken on a new French Lifestyle brand Mo:vel.
Q: What was the best advice your dad gave you?
There are many proverbs that dad tries to play off as his own but the one that sticks in my mind - and I’m convinced that this is the Beavers’ or Scouts’ motto – is fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.
Q: What was the first brand that you represented?
West Midland Shoe Company were the first to give me a real chance in the trade and, while I’m not with the initial brand I sold for them, I am still fortunate enough to still be working with them on Earth Spirit. I would love to take credit for the ever-increasing sales in Earth Spirit but, when you have a product that offers a competitive margin and commercial styling, the tools are there for you.
Q: What are the main challenges facing you as an agent?
One of the biggest challenges is keeping everyone happy; suppliers and retailers. It’s no secret that trade is tough at the moment, and it’s tricky to maintain sales figures to keep the factories happy without compromising sales for existing accounts by over saturating territories. Familiarity with a brand is important, and when consumers see a brand in many places, it gives them confidence “because everyone is selling it”. But I feel that it can be detrimental at the same time, so keeping that balance is the main challenge.
Q: What has been your proudest achievement?
As a 15 year-old I was accepted into the National Youth Theatre and, at 20, I made it through uni (somehow) with a degree. I also recently became the Chatham Marine rowing champion with my mum taking female champion. But despite all that, up to this point I would still say being an agent.
Q: What attracts you to a new brand?
Ultimately, do I like it or not. If it’s commercially different, comfortable and casual, then that helps. I feel that if I personally like something, then that will come across when I am presenting the range.
Q: What were your experiences of Moda Footwear earlier this month?
Moda is a fantastic opportunity to showcase new ranges in their entirety, but it’s also an opportunity to gather feedback and to catch up with retailers and other reps from all over the country. Conversations about which styles have picked up momentum is invaluable to us if we are to improve our ranges season on season. I was pleased with how busy I was kept and both brands has a positive reaction, but I did find it to be quieter in the aisles. I know though that back to school and school holidays play a part in absences over summer but on the whole, I was pleased. We will be back with Bugatti and Mo:vel in February.
Discover the Crosby Shoe portfolio in Gus Marshall’s own words;
AS98 (previously Airstep) was added in 2014 and is the sister brand of Mjus. Situated at a more premium price point, AS98 does not disappoint on style, comfort, colour and leather – all equally as exquisite as the next.
Mjus was added in 2012 and has grown from strength to strength from that point. Mjus offers unique innovative designs with a complement of colours in beautifully soft and quirky leathers.
Bugatti is a commercial German brand that take the simplest of design and tweaks them enough to give them a subtle unique selling point without being too complicated. Bugatti uses a stunning palette of colour with a variety of leathers and suedes to produce a very commercial men’s and women’s range. We have been with Bugatti since 2014.
Whether for business or social wear, Mo:vel allows you to be smart and comfortable whatever the occasion. As a lifestyle brand that encompasses the comfort of a trainer but sharpness of a shoe, it’s the perfect shoe for the everyday. Mo:vel is a new one for us so I’m excited to see what happens in the future.
Earth Spirit is a comfort brand that offers the retailer a competitive margin and the consumer a competitive retail price. Earth Spirit has been part of the stable since 2011.