Hobbs has outlined plans to open up to 60 standalone stores and launch a wholesale collection for NW3, its new contemporary sub-brand due to launch in September.
The bridge level womenswear retailer’s chief executive Nicky Dulieu said while she had initially planned to put the younger and more fashionable NW3 brand into existing Hobbs stores, she now believed the concept was strong enough to stand on its own as a separate chain. It will still be stocked in selected Hobbs shops as well as being wholesaled to selected partners. Online giant Asos has also confirmed it will stock NW3 on its website.
Dulieu told Drapers: “We’ve had a fantastic reaction. We’re so excited. We are looking to open six NW3 stores next year but there is the potential for 60.”
NW3, which is named after the postcode of London’s upmarket Hampstead Heath area, where Hobbs was founded 28 years ago, will initially launch into about 20 Hobbs stores.
The brand has been designed by Daniela Boleto, who joined Hobbs as a senior designer from MaxMara last year. She works alongside her mother Helen Boleto, who designs for Hobbs’ mainline collection.
The NW3 collection features 90 pieces with quirky touches including the resurrection of the original 1670 Hampstead halfpenny, the local currency to Hampstead at the time, which appears as statement buttons on blazers and charms on bags and necklaces.
Separately, Hobbs said it would open a flagship store on Long Acre in London’s Covent Garden this autumn. Dulieu said: “18 months ago we would not have considered opening a flagship store, but the market has changed.”
The flagship opening and expansion of NW3 will be spearheaded by newly appointed retail director Alana Mazza. She was previously retail trading director at the now-defunct womenswear chain
Principles. Mazza will oversee Hobbs’ 125 stores and 64 concessions. She replaced Mike Spearing, who has been promoted to business development director. Spearing will retain responsibility for Hobbs’ direct sales, which includes internet and telephone orders. Hobbs said its internet sales continued to grow significantly.
Dulieu said Hobbs would also refurbish its store on Regent Street in central London. The shop will be closed during August while the work is carried out, but will reopen in September to coincide with the launch of the NW3 brand, which will take over the ground floor of both the Covent Garden and Regent Street stores.
Meanwhile, Dulieu said she would put some prices of the Hobbs collection up by 5% where she had introduced more value. However, she said Hobbs would retain its entry-price points.
Hobbs has annual sales of about £100 million.
NW3: the Drapers verdict
NW3 has a clear identity and a strong handwriting. The debut collection for autumn 09 targets a more fashion-forward customer than the core Hobbs range with pixelated prints, felted wool blazers and leather dresses. Along with the Hampstead halfpenny-inspired buttons, NW3 has a specially designed signature print which features pictures of acorns, oak trees, British birds and feathers, which make up the lining of boyfriend blazers and riding jackets, adding a unique, quirky edge. It is clear to see who Hobbs is targeting with the younger NW3 offer, but it still remains true to Hobbs’ stated values of “quality, craftsmanship and the essence of English tradition”.
Right for the market?
NW3 will allow Hobbs to reach out to a new customer, while luring back the old Hobbs customer who has perhaps moved away from the core collection over the past few years because the styling became too classic and mainstream. The tactic is to win back older shoppers with Hobbs while NW3 draws in a new customer group with a mother-daughter shopping experience.
There is little to compete with NW3 on the high street at the moment in terms of styling. But pricing puts it at the top end of the bridge level market with a pleat frill shirt at £99, slim-cut wool trousers at £110 and a boyfriend blazer at £169. Given the current climate, it may take some time for shoppers to swallow tickets like these.