With a new managing director, the iconic Wellington boot brand is majoring on innovation for spring 10
A glance at Hunter’s stockist list reveals it has a foothold in the dyed-in-the-corduroy countrywear market and a spread of directional footwear multiples such as Office, Schuh and Kurt Geiger.
The brand’s new managing director, Peter Taylor, who joined in May after seven years heading the fabric division at Liberty, says maintaining Hunter’s classic roots and injecting newness remains crucial, with UK sales split evenly between classic and fashion product.
Schuh managing director Colin Temple says: “It is an iconic brand, is well distributed and has its niche – it’s the only thing you would wear at a festival. I have nothing negative to say about it. But perhaps the great quality of the brand is actually a challenge – I’ve owned my pair for a long time and don’t need to buy another.”
Persuading shoppers to repeat buy is vital for growth. Fittingly, the spring 10 range innovates with neoprene and bamboo-carbon linings, leather-style and gloss finishes. But the headline range uses a patented technology that recreates animal skins on rubber. Expect an excited style press to pounce on the lizard, croc and ostrich finishes. There are now 20 colourways and seven surface finishes on the boot offer.
Spring 10 also sees rubber flip-flops launch alongside the Hunter sneaker, a vulcanised product in canvas and leather in a pared-down palette of black, metallic shades and soft taupe, with a new H logo embroidered on the side.
Taylor says such developments will continue. But he adds that, while there are clear opportunities to expand footwear and accessories, he will not commit to a schedule for new product categories. Tantalisingly, though, he says that anything matching the brand’s DNA is open for discussion. “While we would never do men’s suiting, for example, outerwear is an opportunity. But it has to be right,” he says.
Taylor’s priority is to put an infrastructure in place that will allow the brand to grow: “Its history spans more than 150 years, but the firm still feels like a start-up. A lot of people have been here only two years and we must separate some roles and invest in specialist expertise.”
Hunter’s massive success came post-2006, when it was saved from administration by four investors – current chairman Peter Mullen, private investor Julian Taylor, former Tory party treasurer Lord Marland and Stephen Rubin, chairman of Pentland Group, which owns supply business Pentland Brands.
Taking the brand further is Taylor’s challenge. Its UK heritage and royal warrants will be key to driving sales overseas. Like many popular heritage brands, Hunter will keep one foot in tradition and another in innovation. That’s good news for its stockists
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