In 2016, Belgian-born Vincent Wauters, who at the time was president of Canadian outdoor and lifestyle label Arc’teryx, was headhunted to lead a traditional, yet progressive British brand. The role was ambitious; Vincent would be managing Hunter, one of the most quintessential rain boot businesses in the world.
The boots are such a classic brand that even the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, owns a pair. “When I came on board, the most positive surprise was the level of energy and creativity,” Vincent says. He also adds that, despite the brand’s longevity, it acts as a startup.
“It’s a young, fascinating and talented team,” he says. “It’s challenging implementing change; you need character and tenacity, but the vision, passion and energy levels of the people have been amazing.” With more than 200 employees working across New York, London, Düsseldorf, Tokyo, Edinburgh and, more recently, Shenzhen, Vincent describes the team as “small yet global”.
From working in Sweden, Finland and Germany to Belgium, France, Canada and now, for the third time, the UK, Vincent is clearly not afraid of change. The CEO also has an impressive portfolio, which includes famous names such as Amazon, Newell Rubbermaid and Amer Sports.
“I love balancing the emotional engagement, the focus on the consumer engagement, the internal staff employment and the creativity that we can build by having a common purpose and intent,” Vincent says.
“I like to balance that with operational excellence. We’ve set this global platform through our global fulfilment centre, which is fantastic because now we can fuel our ecommerce growth based on a solid operational background. Our ecommerce represents close to 30% of all sales.”
Every minute, 365 days a year, Hunter produces two pairs of Original Hunter boots. The British brand, which combines function and fashion, crafts its boots manually from natural rubber. The company also recently launched its certified vegan collection. The high-level craftsmanship involves several hours of production per pair.
“It’s not easy to find partners that have the skillset to do it,” Vincent notes. Hunter has developed partnerships with factories across Asia and Europe. “I spend time with each to talk about our lifestyle, deployment, intent and purpose,” Vincent explains. “We share with them our product development pipeline well ahead of time. We have also set up a quality control and planning team in Shenzhen.”
As the company moves forward, expands and innovates, Vincent is excited to push the business towards its new phase of brand development. “I truly believe it’s the most profound and long-lasting change the brand has had over the past 164 years,” he says. “I think combining obsession with pioneering, protecting the environment and play makes Hunter a unique brand with an amazingly bright future.”
“I truly believe it’s the most profound and long-lasting change the brand has had over the past 164 years.”
Since Vincent’s appointment, the business has multiplied its apparel and bag sales tenfold in four years, and has increased its sales outside of the UK to 80%.
“We are investing in Japan, as we wanted to have an anchor in the Asia–Pacific and believed that Japan was the natural showcase for fashion brands,” he explains. “There is a passion for design and heritage, and also the British brand. We opened in Japan three years ago and our sales have since doubled. Apparel and bag sales now make up about 35% of all transactions in the country.”
Hunter has seen trajectory momentum, with 2018 being its record year in sales; its growth being driven by new markets, apparel and bag sales. “And 2019 has set a new record across those three dimensions,” Vincent enthuses.
“The challenge for the next 18 to 36 months will be about mastery of the amplification of our potential. That will come through our solid product innovation, leveraging our top markets and the new ones,” he says. “However, the most powerful amplifier is the creative, emotional connection with our consumers.
“The most powerful amplifier is the creative, emotional connection with our consumers.”
“I cannot wait to see how far we’ll go because we have a global platform, an amazing brand and crazy engagement with consumers,” Vincent continues. “We are opening the globe as being our Hunter playground. The sky is the limit.”
The time to make a difference at Hunter is now. “We don’t want to leave the fun for the next generation of leaders,” he says. “We aim to enable the brand to become a globally relevant, high-energy, emotionally engaged lifestyle brand.”
It’s safe to say that Vincent and his team are on the right track to achieve their primary goal of having “the most positive, profound impact on Hunter”.
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