Hunter Boots CEO Opens Up About Modernizing the Brand, Plus the E-Commerce & Outdoor Booms

Hunter Boots is on a path for revitalization. Since Paolo Porta took over as CEO in March, after holding the position on an interim basis since June 2020, the brand has seen major gains.

Under Porta’s leadership, from the last quarter of 2020 to date, Hunter saw a 94% increase in e-commerce sales in the U.K., and the plan is to grow the brand even further.

With Hunter’s longstanding heritage, built-in customer base and rising demand for outdoor products, Porta believes the company is poised for success. Here, the CEO opens up about the brand reset and the push for a more modern aesthetic.

Hunter, fall 2021
Hunter’s For The World Outside campaign.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Hunter

When you talk about modernizing this brand that has such a rich history, what does that look like?

Paolo Porta: “First and foremost, we have to have a clear vision of what pillars we want to maintain and what really made the brand relevant over the years. But, how do you then evolve that into something that the people of today can relate to? Our relationship with nature is very different from what it was 10, 15, 20 years ago — and actually 18 months ago since COVID-19. I think we’ve learned to love the outdoors in a completely new and different way, and that, for me, has changed the opportunities and the outlook for Hunter.”

How have you been able to capitalize on the outdoor boom?

PP: “We were well-positioned in the pandemic. Being outdoors was one of the few things that people were allowed to do. I think that was a great starting point for us and it informed us that Hunter isn’t just one weather condition or for one specific time of the year. Our goal is to be season-less and for all weathers. We’re taking a footwear-first approach. We have a strong validity in footwear, people come to us and trust us for that because we deliver that perfect balance between function and style. But I truly believe that Hunter is more than just one piece of footwear.”

You’ve had experience in footwear previously at Jimmy Choo. What did you learn from the luxury sector that you’re bringing to Hunter?

PP: “They are two very different brands, but during my tenure we also took Jimmy Choo from being a ‘strappy sandals stiletto’ brand to a much more diverse product offering. What I truly got from there, which is very applicable to Hunter, is that it doesn’t matter what your price point is; it doesn’t matter how broad your audience is — you need to deliver impeccable service, impeccable quality and drive a sense that a customer is becoming part of the brand. And that’s the only way to make sure that a one-time buyer is going to become a loyal one and will continue to come back for more. At Hunter, their first purchase is the Original Tall Boot, but it’s making sure that first experience is seamless so it will enable us to sell to them sandals, hiking boots, Chelseas and all of our apparel.”

Hunter has seen success on the e-commerce front since the pandemic hit. Where does that stand now?

PP: “Pre-pandemic, e-commerce was about 28% of our turnover. The pandemic then changed dynamics, and while we saw some of our brick-and-mortar and wholesale operations obviously being negatively affected, e-commerce boomed. We’re currently standing at around 45% of the business being achieved through our Hunterboots.com, which is a very strong position to be in. It gives you a higher degree of control, but also gives us an opportunity to speak directly to the consumer. Also, you could say that about 70% of the stock that is bought from Hunter is bought online through all our partners. That’s extremely powerful and important. It gives us agility to reach a very broad audience in a matter of just a few minutes, where what we put online is immediately available to everyone, for everyone to see. As we look to move this business forward and grow exponentially, that time to market is paramount.”

Where do you see the biggest opportunity when it comes to markets outside the U.K.?

PP: “We have a very solid business in North America, in the U.K. and in a few European regions. Japan is also a very important market for us. The rest is pretty much a white space that we want to capitalize on. China is growing very fast for us. We’ve had a real focus over the last 15 months on the Chinese market. And we’re implementing a few things to make sure that Asia overall becomes a bigger slice of the pie because there is a huge opportunity there. I have to say, as an Italian, I see that Italy is another big opportunity as well.”

In terms of sustainability, what are some of Hunter’s current initiatives?

PP: “We launched Hunter Protect [in August], which is our new way of effectively talking about sustainability and our responsibility to the planet. Obviously, we are here to sell product, but we also have to make a difference, so we’ve made pledges, which are real and tangible. It’s all within the next two to three years and that’s the speed that we need to make sure that we implement change.”

(Hunter’s commitment includes 100% of its packaging will be recyclable, the brand will offset all direct carbon emissions from global stores and offices, and 65% of its collection will incorporate Forest Stewardship Council-certified rubber, Bloom algae foam or recycled textiles by 2022. Plus, all of its rubber footwear will be FSC certified by 2025.)

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