This year, Wellington boots-maker Hunter ditched London Fashion Week after a two-year run. It turns out having two tentpole events a year didn’t sit right with a brand that has become synonymous with the period between those fashion shows: music festival season.
“We felt there was a massive opportunity to step away from the constraints of the traditional fashion calendar and focus on engaging with our consumer in more agile way,” explained Alasdhair Willis, Hunter’s creative director since 2013.
With the rise of social media, fashion retailers have been grappling with the shift toward direct relationships with their customers.
For Hunter, this means focusing on festival-goers from April to September, and wet weather shoppers from September to March. And through the year, its focus is on being “always on,” with a responsive social media team — boosted by a new hire year — who can keep in step with customers.
For example, this summer the brand ran social media activations at various music festivals including Glastonbury with the aim to engage new fans inside and outside the events. It created, for example, “the world’s smallest festival,” which was held in a porta-potty. On the GIF-making platform GIPHY, it created a set of branded filters which attendees at Glastonbury could layer over their photos. It worked.
The collaboration generated over 73,000 engagements inside the Giphy mobile app. One animation saw the brand’s highest-ever views on its Instagram channel.“If we look at the week of Glastonbury festival, which saw us launch a partnership with GIPHY in addition to the world’s smallest festival, we saw a 110 percent increase in revenue compared to the same period last year,” explained Willis.
Across social media, there’s also now an emphasis on the timelessness of its products. With the latest Core Collection, Hunter introduced unisex items that can be worn in any season. During a recent wet-weather promotion, #RainStartsPlay, the brand identified Twitter users talking about the rain and replied in-kind with relevant product GIFs and the promise of a freebie. It generated 400,000 impressions.
@HunterBoots lol I love it!
— Unicorn Shawty (@StreetStylist) October 13, 2016
“This activity provided us with a unique and authentic way of engaging with Hunter fans, as well as thanking them for their brand loyalty,” Willis said. “It also allowed us to naturally engage with the rain conversation on Twitter and speak to our clear association with weather, ensuring we could bring our customer into the fold of what we wanted to be a very inclusive campaign.”
— Hunter (@HunterBoots) October 24, 2016
“It’s this essential part of our DNA that we’re celebrating with CORE. It takes that British obsession with weather and turns it on its head: How can we put a smile on your face, even on the rainiest of days?” said Willis. The brand refresh has also seen order value grow over the same period last year. In London alone, demand grew 35 percent. In 2015, sales rose 19 percent to £113.7m. And since its #RainStartsPlay campaign, its flagship stores sold more non-footwear products than footwear for the first time.
But the brand’s ambitions are not limited to the U.K. Moving away from London Fashion Week has seen the brand expand to events and pop-up shops overseas. The business had previously relied on wholesale but has since stepped up its in-store presence in New York, Tokyo and Taipei.
Platforms have been particularly important for Hunter to find new audiences too. It has been exploring new ground on Pinterest, where it made the platform’s first promoted video in the U.K. It had a 10 percent completion rate, while the brand saw a 30 percent increase in people searching Hunter Boots against the previous month.
But Facebook and Instagram are still its core focus. “Staying true to our pioneering spirit, we’re always keeping our ear to the ground for interesting, non-traditional platforms and opportunities,” Willis said.