Britain’s Iconic Hunter Boot Collapses, Blaming Brexit, Inflation and Unseasonably Warm Weather

How exactly does the maker of a simple $175 rubber boot go under?

(Bloomberg) — Hunter’s Wellington boots were the rare product that could unite Britain—from the royal family to pop stars, from the countryside to the city. The classic,  $175 tall rain wellies became the chicest boots to wear either while tromping through a muddy music festival or just splashing through puddles in a rainstorm.

But a combination of supply chain problems, Brexit, inflation and unseasonably warm weather ended with Hunter Boot going into administration, the UK’s version of bankruptcy.

Papers filed last week by the company’s administrator, AlixPartners, said the company known for producing sturdy, long-lasting boots has faced “significant challenges since 2019.” Debts were listed at about £115 million ($146 million).

That’s when sales in the all-important North America market fell by 15.4%. The company blamed one of the warmest and driest winters in the US, according to Hunter’s filings in Companies House.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, sales slowed 20%, prompting the company to raise cash, refinance debt and restructure its ownership, according to company filings. Sales picked up again in 2021, but the company blamed supply chain issues and Brexit for ongoing problems. 

This isn’t the end of the Hunter brand, however. As part of the restructuring process, the company’s intellectual property was sold to Authentic Brands Group, which also recently bought Ted Baker. Authentic Chief Executive Officer Jamie Salter said in a statement that the company looked forward to “continue growing the Hunter brand.” Authentic didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The boot is a British icon. Hunter started as the North British Rubber Company in 1857 in Edinburgh, becoming known for producing sturdy Wellington boots which became popular both with the countryside set and festival goers. In the 2000s and 2010s, they were regularly spotted on celebrities like Kate Moss and Alexa Chung at music festivals. 

Competitors like Le Chameau, Aigle and waterproof leather boots Dubarry have eaten into Hunter’s market and changed tastes. In 2013, society magazine Tatler wrote that “Hunters are for Londoners”—meant to be an insult, indicating that if you wear them, you don’t really know what you’re doing—while “Le Chameau are plain posh.”

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