Hotter owner Unbound names brand partners for new platform, Birkenstock, Geox are on the list
Unbound Group on Thursday unveiled the first raft of brands that will be part of the new curated multibrand platform to be launched by the owner of the Hotter Shoes brand. And it’s interesting that five of the labels are footwear-focused just like Unbound’s own star brand. They include Birkenstock, Muck Boots, Geox, Skechers and Hush Puppies.
The unboungroup.co.uk platform will also include clothing labels Rohan, Asquith of London, Boody, Noa Noa, Part Two, Kaffe, Soaked in Luxury, Cream, and Lakeland Leather.
And CEO Ian Watson told Fashionnetwork.com that while the footwear offer via those specialist brands is just about complete, the company is still talking to more apparel labels.
The new platform will offer this broad range of brands, as well as complementary own-brand products, for the core 55+ demographic that’s always been key for Hotter and remains the group's focus.
The initial launch with the new clothing and footwear partners takes place on 28 July with a brand rollout happening though to October, and later developments will see new categories being added into the mix.
The later additions will include “wellness” products as well other brands operated by Unbound Group.
But wellness won’t only mean traditional health-focused products like vitamins, with Watson saying that skincare could also be part of the mix.
That would transform the company's overall offer into a much more diverse one, that takes in key categories such as clothing, accessories/footwear, wellness and beauty.
Yet Watson was keen to stress that it won't be a marketplace in the accepted sense of the word and that it will instead be heavily “curated”.
For instance, while Birkenstock may be launching ultra-luxury and/or edgy collaborations, Unbound has carefully selected the Birkenstock products that will appear on its platform. It wants the brands there to have a laser focus on the core target consumer.
And it really knows who that consumer is with an enviable reach in its target group via an impressive database.
The company said it has a 4.6 million-strong customer database, "which represents some 30% of the UK 55+ female population”.
It added that “each brand has been curated to meet the needs of our customers, based on relevancy, desirability, specialism and sustainability criteria, following a careful selection process and data-driven insights. It is therefore expected that the introduction of these brands to Unbound Group will benefit from greater engagement and an uplift in cross- and up-sell opportunities”.
The board believes there’s “a significant opportunity to drive increased customer activity and loyalty from its current subscriber base”.
And its customer base certainly seems to be a strong one given that a trading update delivered on Thursday showed ongoing strength, despite the tough economic backdrop.
The company said “Hotter continues to trade in line with the board's expectations for the year ending 5 February 2023”.
It added that this month, the brand has opened two new garden centre concessions within the Notcutts chain in Cheshire and East Sussex. Garden centres are a key “low-cost and flexible retail format ideally situated for our target demographic [and] will increasingly play a key role in connecting us with our customers,” it explained.
This is an important move for the company as gardening is clearly one of the major activities its core consumers take part in.
But some of the brands joining its new platform also show that we don't always need to be thinking traditionally when it comes to the activities that appeal to the 55+ age group. Yoga clothing, for instance is usually targeted at a much younger shopper.
Watson told us that “we did some research and for the over-50s, expansion in being active is the highest in any demographic. As you get older you're not necessarily going to be pumping weights in a gym, but you're more likely to be doing something around pilates or yoga.”
Unbound has partnered with inclusive brand Asquith of London for yoga with Watson describing its founder as “inspirational. She couldn't find the products she was looking for and therefore developed her own brand but also with a very eco-friendly culture”.
And with such labels, it won’t just be about the big sell. Another feature that will characterise the new Unbound platform is content.
“The content element of the site is going to be critical”, Watson said because, as well as selling products, it wants to focus on what its customers are interested in, and it’s this that’s “going to keep bringing them back to the site”.
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