Hunter, the premium boot-maker whose brand is a fixture in celebrity and festival-goers’ wardrobes, is searching for new investment after finding its fortunes derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Sky News has learnt that Hunter, a double-royal warrant-holder that was founded 160 years ago, has asked AlixPartners, the professional services firm, to oversee a quickfire stake sale.
The move has been triggered by a slump in demand as COVID-19 hammers consumer brand sales.
The cancellation of live entertainment events and music festivals such as Glastonbury has had a particularly severe impact on Hunter, according to people close to the company.
One insider said on Thursday that Hunter’s future would be endangered without new investment.
The terms of any prospective deal are unclear.
The stark picture facing the company comes despite the fact that its last financial year was the best in its history.
Hunter, which has been controlled by Searchlight Capital Partners since 2012, was traditionally dominated by sales of Wellington boots, but over the last five years has diversified into a broader array of lifestyle products.
20% of its sales are now generated by non-footwear products, while its geographical expansion means it now has a large – albeit challenged – business in North America.
As well as Searchlight, Pentland Group, the owner of Berghaus and Speedo, is a minority shareholder in Hunter.
The bootmaker has struck recent collaborations with Stella McCartney, Peppa Pig and The Walt Disney Company to create new product ranges.
It has also reduced its exposure to physical retail outlets, and now has only three flagship stores and three more standalone shops.
Hunter’s search for new backers echoes that of other prominent consumer brands which are seeking new funding on an accelerated basis.
With little visibility about the timing or trajectory of the global economy’s recovery from the coronavirus outbreak, many retailers and the brands they sell are facing a battle for survival.
Hunter also finds itself in the ‘squeezed middle’ of companies which are currently ineligible for either of the government’s principal emergency loan schemes.
Hunter declined to comment.
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