Hunter boots

LONDON — Having steered Hunter through the COVID-19 pandemic, Paolo Porta has been confirmed as chief executive officer of the British boot brand.

An announcement is expected Tuesday.

Porta joined Hunter last June from Jimmy Choo, where he served as senior vice president of merchandising and licensing. As interim CEO of Hunter, he navigated the brand through the early stages of its repositioning strategy and the pandemic.

In an interview, he said the focus going forward will be on footwear for outdoor pursuits, direct-to-consumer and wholesale sales.

Hunter said that under Porta’s leadership, from the last quarter of 2020 to date, Hunter has seen a 94 percent increase in e-commerce sales in the U.K., driven largely by its rain boot category. The brand’s Original Wellington boot saw an 89 percent increase in sales, with the product selling out in many of its key sizes.

According to the company, the plan is to reposition Hunter as “the leading iconic British outdoor lifestyle brand,” and put a “laser-sharp focus on product elevation and diversification into all-season, all-weather” gear, with sustainability at the core. The company has also charged Porta with “sharpening the brand identity” and “supercharging growth” in the U.S., China and Asia.

“The potential at Hunter is enormous,” said Porta. “This is just the beginning for what I know will be an incredibly promising and stimulating next chapter in Hunter’s esteemed story.”

Paolo Porta, the new CEO of Hunter.  Image Courtesy of Hunter

Asked about his vision for Hunter, Porta said that “Hunter is for the world outside. Time spent outdoors, shared with family, enjoying freedom during downtimes will be the foundation of everything we do. Capturing this special place in our consumers’ hearts and mind-sets will be key to our brand strategy, as well as reclaiming the unique space we have held for over 160 years of being both a functional and fashion brand. Our coexistence with the outside, and the need to protect the environment we exist in, will underpin all of our sustainable activities and design practices.”

He’s planning on a “footwear-first, digitally led approach in the way we communicate with our customers, but also in the way we operate as a company. I want to leverage everything we have learnt from 2020 from a digital standpoint to provide more efficient ways of working with teams and suppliers, and more effective ways to deliver great product and services to our customers.”

Porta added that e-commerce saw a “significant increase in performance” during the pandemic, “and we continue to believe that direct-to-consumer will remain a large part of the business, growing faster than other channels over the next few years.”

As restrictions lift “and life returns to some sort of normality, we will continue engaging with the wealth of experience and highly committed customer audiences provided by our global and extensive network of wholesale partners,” Porta added. “We also see recent events as an opportunity to test innovative formats, new locations and ways of operating a retail network as well as exploring new channels that offer relevant and fresh audience demographics.”

Prior to joining Hunter, Porta worked in luxury fashion for more than 20 years in roles across merchandising, retail, wholesale distribution, brand development and licensing at brands including Christian Dior, Stella McCartney, Burberry and Jimmy Choo.

Since joining Hunter he has made key hires on the brand and creative team.

Among them is Sandra Romboli, who joined as global design director from Decathlon, Reebok and Adidas, and whose role is to “set the creative agenda and expand the product aesthetic” to create “all-season, everyday footwear, accessory and relevant category adjacencies.”

As reported, Claudia Plant joined as chief marketing officer from Burberry and Net-a-porter.

In June, following a recapitalizaiton of the business and the start of a strategic review, Hunter hired Porta to succeed Vincent Wauters as CEO.

At the time, the company said it brought Porta on board  because of his “considerable international experience in merchandising, licensing, brand development, distribution and retail management.”

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