What are your thoughts about the PCIAW?
I think the new name for the magazine PCIAW Voice says it all. The industry needs a voice. We are extremely lucky to have such an experienced voice in Chairman John Miln ( ex-Chair UKFT) and our CEO Yvette has a voice that is increasingly known and respected on a global basis, that cannot be a bad start!
On a personal level I am proud to represent my country – Northern Ireland on this board which is truly global. We have representation from New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, England, Jamaica, USA, Germany and China on the board already and of course the membership is growing internationally as well, despite the fact we are still in our first year. Most of the companies represented on the board are themselves truly global organisations of real scale, so I think all of this is a real achievement and a huge testimony to the sheer determination and passion Yvette has shown in building this organisation around her very positive vision of what our industry should look and feel like and how it should operate.
What about Brexit and how is it affecting you at Hunter?
Hunter’s HQ is 3 minutes from the border with the Republic of Ireland so probably on many levels it will affect us in ways that other UK companies will not be affected. When I started to try and understand some of the impacts I realised that with 15% of our staff being resident in RoI, they were crossing the border not twice a day as I would have guessed for work, but actually more commonly 4 to 6 times per day because of their kids, their partners, hospitals, sport, shopping, or visiting other family etc. Naturally on a simple human level I do not want their lives disrupted by a hard border but I truly don’t believe there will be a hard border to be honest. Neither side would want to build it and neither side would want to risk providing the staff to secure it. There are more border crossings between NI and RoI than there are in whole of the rest of the EU – it would impossible to do this properly even aside from the obvious security risks. On the more direct business side we are negatively affected by our global trade in USD buying but positively affected by our € trade so it is essentially swings and roundabouts in that regard.
What is the Hunter approach to CSR?
Hunter are an SME that take a Plc. type approach in this regard. We are a member of ETI, SEDEX and Business in the Community. Keeping on top of the demands of ETI membership is a tough call for an SME but we are doing well and have moved up a level within ETI this year. I think in general the industry, particularly at the larger scale end of the market, tries hard to do the right thing in most cases.
Sustainability is a growing issue in the sector what are your views?
We are proud to being doing our bit here too. We are providing innovative solutions to the market like a Moss Bros Hire services for certain items using our HunterPAC® technology, which allows for reuse on a grand scale and we are operating care and maintenance contracts for complex PPE contracts which mean we have to care for products we sell or lease for a decade. This is a huge responsibility. The products better be good to start with to have a chance of lasting that long and the care processes need to be super professional to ensure garment life is maximised in a safe manner. In innovative ways such as this we are allowing products we produce to have less impact over their life by elongating their life and using our proprietary HunterCARE® technology to support complex management processes associated with doing this. It is pretty clear that the arc for the industry will be about making better things that last much, much longer as the image of a highly disposable fast fashion approach is not something that many brands in our market would be comfortable with.
What burning questions or challenges are being put in front of you by clients?
As per the prior question, sustainability – making products that provide real value over their useful life is the most strong and growing issue in regard to products. We are really good in this area so I think we can meet that challenge head on. Gender neutrality and how we could support this regarding garment sizing that is not gendered at all is cropping up, but I have to be honest and don’t think we have a great solution for that at the moment. The single biggest area of all though is technology and how it can be used to make the lives of our clients easier, faster and more efficient. We are a professional clothing company on one hand but on the other hand we are a technology company creating innovative software solutions which provide game changing solutions for our customers. As I keep telling potential clients – all web-based systems are not created equally, the best ones will change the way you operate permanently for the better. My job is to show them how Hunter can help them do more with less, using our software technology.
Click on the magazine link below to take a look at the article and turn to page 15. For more articles take a look at the latest edition of PCIAW Voice.