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How Hobbs rediscovered its identity

Hobbs is a brand people know, but do not necessarily think of – so the key to its success is to get in front of its customer, CEO Meg Lustman told Drapers Fashion Forum.

“We try to put ourselves in front of the customer where she chooses to shop, whether that’s a department store or an online marketplace. We attract new customers by putting ourselves in front of them – other people’s platforms are important.”

Lustman admitted that the decision to sell via Debenhams was not “popular”, but said it was going well: “We knew we had a good occasionwear business, but our core customer wasn’t buying it from us. Through Debenhams we have started to develop a new customer base and it doesn’t appear to be cannibalising any other part of the business.”

This strategy of focusing on third-party platforms has influenced its international strategy. For example, Hobbs expanded into the US via concessions in Bloomingdale’s. It also sells through German etailer Zalando, and plans to roll out more ecommerce partnerships.

When it comes to choosing international markets, Lustman pointed out that Hobbs appeals in countries where a high proportion of women work outside the home.

“We choose markets that are well developed and mature. We’re strong in northern Europe. India isn’t on our radar at the moment. We opened in Middle East this year, and I have to say it’s been difficult – it’s not a market where our customer naturally exists.”

“Japan has been amazing. Hobbs has a British sensibility: it is beautiful, polite, appropriate and very considered,  which works well in Japan.”

Lustman revealed that Hobbs will open its first store in Hong Kong in December.

Of the sale of Hobbs to Whistles and Phase Eight owner TFG London last year, Lustman said: “It’s great to be backed by a long-term strategic investor, who is doing things for the long-term benefit of the business.

“I share the caution people feel about the UK market, but I still think women want to feel they’re being offered the opportunity to buy beautiful clothes.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • If HOBBS hadn’t been sold, it was another in trouble. Too many CEOs talk up inadequate performance.

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