Hunkemöller is one of Europe’s leading and fastest-growing lingerie brands and was founded in Amsterdam in 1886. Here, RLI sits down with company CEO Philip Mountford to talk about how the business is expanding across multiple territories and how it has navigated the last couple of, unpredictable years.
A fashionable intimate apparel business, Hunkemöller’s key consumer is between 18 and 29 years old and is heavily influenced through social media. The business has been previously owned by KKR, PAI, Carlyle and it has recently been sold to Parcom, a Dutch private equity business, supported by a number of influential Dutch entrepreneurs.
In recent years, Hunkemöller has evolved into a Pan-European, omni-channel retailer and it has integrated technology into every aspect of its business, from extensive customer profiling based on an extensive base of active loyalty program members, to a digitalised recruitment and training process for retail employees.
The customer journey is at the heart of the company’s strategy and has resulted in a seamless interaction between the physical and digital environment through its click-to-brick initiatives.
“Covid-19 sped up our omni-channel strategy and we have achieved huge growth during the last two years,” explains Philip Mountford, CEO of Hunkemöller. “Omni-channel now represents 38 per cent of the company’s turnover, broken down into our own e-commerce platform, concessions, wholesale and marketplaces.”
Currently the brand has 900 stores in 19 countries globally, with Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands being their biggest markets but growth is being seen in the Scandics where the business already has more than 125 stores.
During the pandemic, the business launched its new store concept in Berlin, opening a store across 700sq m and this format will now be value-engineered and rolled out to future stores. The company still believes in the importance of stores and will launch further sites across Scandinavia, Spain, Austria and Switzerland whilst reviewing its next strategic country, which will be one of either the UK, Finland or Poland.
On the e-commerce side, late last year Hunkemöller opened their US website and they are well above their targeted sales. Meanwhile in the last two months they have opened a Polish website based on the brand’s strong performance through Zalando and About You, this has now given them confidence to consider a physical footprint in the future.
When discussing new products and initiatives, Mountford explains that Charlotte Davies, Chief Product Officer and Patricia Beurskens, Head of Design, lead one of the most international design teams in the intimate apparel industry. He goes on to say that their attention to detail and foresight has allowed them to create a unique handwriting which differentiates them from the industry. Their customer is focused on fashion and our strategy is to ensure that they continue to stimulate them through their sub-brand strategy, and their designer collaborations.
“Retailing has always been about product, people and brand experience. We are no exception and we are continually redeveloping our store design. Our team of international designers are ensuring the product is at the forefront and our learning and development, focus on training our store staff who we employ for attitude and train for skill, to ensure we have a unique and consistent, world-class service,” Mountford highlights.
The role of social media is a crucial one in the marketing efforts of Hunkemöller. It is an incredibly powerful tool for them to reach and engage with their customers, and an effective way for them to reach out to new audiences with engaging content, build trust and authority and to show who they are as a brand.
Through their social media platforms they have been able to build a loyal community of fans and brand advocates. They have one of the most advanced social structures with Mega, Macro, Micro and Nano influencers all playing a part in growing their social media base and helping to drive sales and brand awareness.
In terms of sustainability, Mountford explains how their main focus is on tackling key challenges such as reducing packaging and waste, gender equality, human rights – as well as circular fashion, climate change and social inclusion.
“In 2021 we became climate neutral in our direct operations by offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions. For the coming years it is our intention to substantially cut our carbon emissions, we have therefore set a new focus on reducing our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. As for 2023, we will join the Science Based Targets initiative with the aim of establishing a baseline for our indirect and direct emissions, set actual reduction targets and address the major drivers of our climate impact,” says Mountford.
Having been in business for 136 years, they have very clear brand values of being Passionate, Fun, Sexy, Inspiring, In Touch and Inclusive. These core values are used both internally and externally and create the ethics that run throughout the company. They are a brand that is focused on the fashionable consumer and their team is young, dynamic and extremely cosmopolitan. In their head office alone there are over 40 nationalities working together towards one goal.
“As a company we have a very clear strategic plan which is cascaded through all of their 7,500 employees. Our biggest challenges remain recruitment and retention of key talent whilst our biggest external challenges will be the environment, the economic situation and distribution costs. Hunkemöller is an amazing brand with huge growth potential and the future is very bright, after we overcome the storms of the coming couple of years,” Mountford concludes.