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Hunter Boot Ltd. has found a new chief executive officer.
This story first appeared in the October 29, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The British rain-boot maker has tapped James Seuss as ceo and global president to take the brand to the next level.
Seuss, who currently serves as ceo of multibrand watch retailer Tourneau LLC, will join Hunter in December, and will be based in the London office. Seuss will remain on the board of Tourneau, which is currently searching for a ceo.
“It’s been great to work at a multibrand environment, but I am looking forward to going back to the mono-brand world,” Seuss told WWD. “Hunter is a heritage brand, too, so there are so many wonderful things to communicate to the consumer.”
Hunter has positioned itself for expansion since its controlling shareholder, Searchlight Capital Partners LP, came on board last December. Since then, the private investment firm, which owns an undisclosed percentage in the company, has been on the lookout for a ceo who would be able to increase Hunter’s presence in existing and untapped markets.
Seuss has focused on that kind of brand building during his two-and-a-half-year tenure at Tourneau. The retail executive will also trade off of his experience as ceo of Cole Haan, where he worked from 2006 to 2010 and his time at Harry Winston Diamond Corp., Gucci Group and Tiffany & Co., where he held top management positions. Hunter marks a return to London for Seuss, who oversaw Tiffany’s operations there for several years and later served as ceo of Stella McCartney.
Hunter is known for its signature rubber Wellington rain boots, and also produces outerwear and other accessories. The brand, which reported sales of 78 million pounds, or $126 million in 2011, doesn’t have any retail stores, with all its merchandise currently sold via wholesale. Seuss said the brand would begin opening stores in the Europe, U.S. and Asia, and that he hopes to introduce the brand in China.
“I haven’t yet mapped out a retail strategy, but we’re going to focus on expanding into key cities and cold-weather cities,” Seuss said, referring to New York, Chicago, London and Tokyo.
Seuss added that he would bring Hunter’s luxe collection, The Balmoral, which is only sold in the U.K., to the U.S. market. The upscale sporting boot, which incorporates leather and rubber, is a more stylish version of Hunter’s signature boots. Bringing that collection here is part of a larger strategy to focus on upping the company’s fashion quotient, Seuss said.
“We will continue to push the fashion piece of Hunter and the design team will announce a creative director soon,” he said, adding that the company will also ramp up development in other categories, such as outerwear.
“We’re getting outerwear more widely distributed and we’re making that a core part of the business,” Seuss said. “When you put on your Hunter boots, you want to put on your Hunter jacket as well.”
Footwear will still be at the core of the brand, and the company will likely further develop its winter boot and seasonal shoe offering. More fashion-inspired collaborations are also in the pipeline. In the past, Hunter teamed up with Jimmy Choo for a collaborative boot, for example.
While those partnerships will continue, Seuss stressed an adherence to Hunter’s 156-year heritage, which is built on handmade, vulcanized rubber boots.
“There’s no real clear competitor for Hunter,” he said. “It has a great combination of being fashion forward and also creating a great problem-solving product.”