hush: why we invested.
True recently invested in hush, a leading digital fashion and lifestyle brand. We believe this business has the brand strength, loyal customer base and agile digital-first approach to grow its share of the UK women’s apparel market and to translate its UK success into different markets around the word.
Matt Truman, CEO and co-founder of True, outlines his view on the investment, the changing nature of the womenswear market and how True and hush are going to partner to win in a competitive space.
What is hush?
Founded as an online pureplay in 2003 by Mandy Watkins (and jointly run by Mandy and her husband Rupert), hush was originally a collection of pyjamas and loungewear – core styles that remain central to the business and clearly products that have never been more in demand. The brand has since branched out into further categories of womenswear including dresses, footwear, jeans and athleisure, but the core principles of comfort and wearability still remain. The range is built on timeless styles and silhouettes, with a nod to the latest seasonal trends but always staying true to the hush brand and aesthetic.
The business has quadrupled in size over the last four years (with sales now in excess of £50m) on the back of high quality product and excellent customer engagement – a digital-first business that thoroughly understands its customers and is leading the way in how it uses original lifestyle content to interact with consumers across multiple touchpoints . This has enabled the brand to build a community of loyal customers across attractive demographics who buy throughout the year, either directly through the hush website or via concessions in John Lewis.
Apparel, and within this, womenswear, is one of the largest segments of the Consumer market. In the UK, womenswear accounted for £28bn of spend in 2017 and is expected to be worth £35bn in 2027, almost double the menswear market. Growth is being driven by the shift to ecommerce, and brands and businesses that operate with a digital-first mindset and a deep understanding of their consumer are winning in this space. There is a long-term shift to casual clothing in the womenswear market, and concerns around sustainability are prompting consumers to buy quality, long-lasting clothing that they will wear beyond the season. Hush is perfectly positioned to take advantage of these shifts. The ranges are on trend but not fashion led which provides an attractive mix of newness and season-to-season continuity which we believe, as investors in brands, is a key factor for long term sustainable growth and success.
Incumbent retailers and brands in this sector are investing in making the shift to online, both in terms of business model and mindset. For hush, being a digital retailer from the start has created a culture and operating model that embraces change and is agile in response to changes in the market. This gives hush an exciting opportunity to grow further in e-commerce and take advantage of this accelerating channel shift. There is currently a shake-up in the womenswear sector which is seeing some of the legacy chains with large retail estates struggle to survive. This will create space in the market for more agile brands such as hush to not just survive but thrive.
As well as growth in e-commerce, we see significant untapped growth for hush in other channels, including international, and further offline expansion in the UK. Hush has been purely UK-focused to-date, but the target consumer demographic exists in many international markets, and the e-commerce model enables us to test new markets and reach consumers quickly. Offline, hush has run successful pop-up stores and gained experience which will be valuable for opening selected brand-enhancing bricks & mortar stores in future.
Having explored consumer views on the hush brand and product, we know that hush has a core (and growing) group of customers who are incredibly loyal to the brand and purchase multiple times a year, as they know they can trust the brand for good quality, wearable product and a great customer journey. Our analysis shows there is untapped potential in acquiring new customers into this group among the demographics where hush has achieved success to-date.
We look to partner with passionate, talented and ambitious management teams, and having known the hush team for a number of years, we have no doubt that Rupert & Mandy and the wider team tick all these boxes and have what it takes to scale the brand and expand into new channels and markets.
True & hush
At True, we only invest in businesses we believe we can support and guide. In this instance, we believe our experience and network in the apparel sector can accelerate hush’s growth trajectory. This experience includes investing in companies such as Alex & Alexa, Frugi and ADAY, and partnering with leading retailers such as John Lewis, Primark, Abercrombie & Fitch, M&S and TJX. The network we have built in the sector is wide-reaching across investors, executives and entrepreneurs, and we will be using this network to source a chair to sit on the board of hush.
Our unique business model includes an innovation hub which provides a network to help identify next-generation marketing solutions, products and emerging technologies that can help hush grow its presence, both domestically and internationally.
Our experience in e-commerce owning several D2C businesses across various consumer sub-sectors will also inform the hush strategy as the business expands into new categories and channels, and scales up its teams, operations and systems to support this growth. The ability to bring CEOs and management teams together during this crisis, operating in the same markets and attacking the same challenges, is unique at True.
Despite uncertainty for companies in all sectors over the coming months, we believe both the short and long term prospects for hush are incredibly strong. We are excited about working with the team to scale the brand and leverage the True network, experience and expertise to take the business to the next stage.
Click here to read more from Matt Truman, CEO and co-founder, on investing in the shift in consumer behaviour