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Q&A Ian MacRitchie, chairman, Hobbs

As womenswear retailer Hobbs reports a 16.4% increase in sales over Christmas, Ruth Faulkner talks to chairman Ian MacRitchie about why the retailer did so well and what customers can expect from Hobbs in 2013.

Q: Your online sales were particularly strong during the period, up by 60.2% compared to the same period last year, why do you think that was?

A: We have put a lot of time and effort into our ecommerce capabilities over the last year. We have now got a pretty good blended multi-channel proposition. Our customer can buy what she wants when she wants it and at the right quality value combination. I also think for all retailers, particularly fashion retailers, online sales are improving generally as people become more confident with shopping online.

Q: It was much colder this winter than last winter. Do you think weather was a factor in Hobbs doing so well?

A: I think we had a weather system that was more in line with expectation for that time of year but I couldn’t isolate any one reason, like weather, for our increased sales. It might have been a factor, but just one of many factors. I think it was more about offering the right product.

Q: You launched your occasionwear label Invitation in 2012; did that perform well over the Christmas party season?

A: The growth we saw was across all of our labels. Obviously Invitation contributed to this but all of our labels were in positive growth. Our NW3 brand performed very strongly during the period.

Q: What can we expect to see from Hobbs in the UK during 2013?

A: We are still investing in the UK in terms of bringing the brand to life in our existing store estate through a store refurbishment programme which you will start to see in the summer and this will continue into the autumn. We have also got lots of new exciting product which you will see in 2013.

Q: What are your plans internationally?

A: As we have outlined already, our plan internationally is very much online first, followed by local content websites and then in due course we will look at locations, where the demand is there, for opening standalone stores. We now ship to 50 countries worldwide through our site and over the course of 2013, towards the back end of Q2; we will launch three local content sites in other countries.

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