Hunter Apparel Solutions Limited (Hunter) is a purpose-led, technology driven, multiple award-winning UK company.
Hunter HQ consists of central offices, an R&D centre, an ultra-modern robotics-driven factory, four warehouses, plus a specialist, state-of-the-art PPE laundry and decontamination facility. Hunter has staff throughout the UK & Ireland, as well as having a separate specialist laundry facility in Ireland. PCIAW®VOICE met with Team Hunter to discuss the state-of-play in the sector, and what the future holds for Hunter.
Simon Hunter Esq, M.B.E, C.E.O. stated,
“Hunter is in part a professional clothing company and in part a technology company. We develop, and own, the code for our HunterPAC® and HunterCARE® platforms. We were the first company in the UK to launch an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven sizing solution. We will always seek to maintain our tech leadership position in the sector and are working on a raft of new solutions that will be game changing solutions for the sector.”
The Hunter senior team consists of C-suite leaders from finance, sales, customer service, and operations working collaboratively on its purpose-led approach to protect and serve front line workers from a range of sectors. This is emphasised by its dedicated work throughout the pandemic, when Hunter supplied 55 million items of PPE to the front line, to protect blue light and other key workers, in addition to those in the transport and utilities sectors.
Sustainability is hardwired into Hunter’s business model
As a business, Hunter emphasises the importance of its facility to manufacture in the UK, as well as abroad. Not only does this mean that Hunter has an auditable control over their supply chain, it gives them the agility to meet customer demand with great flexibility, while also significantly reducing the company’s carbon impact.
A recent Hunter Rail project for First Group’s new train and travel service, Lumo, has set out to transform the UK Rail sector. Lumo selected Hunter for being the most advanced supplier from a technology perspective, as well as for Hunter’s stronger grasp of gender-neutral design, all while manufacturing most of the products in the UK. This allows Lumo to help support UK domestic manufacturing and reduce the carbon impact of the contract award.
Helen Wylde, Lumo Managing Director said,
“I was tired of seeing a militaristic, gender-based approach to uniform. Hunter understood that we needed something different, something that reflected Lumo’s ethos and values, that was gender neutral and much more modern in look and feel. Supporting UK industry was important to us as well as producing high-quality, ethically sourced goods, as sustainably as possible. Hunter was an easy choice.”
In 2020, Hunter invested c.£1 million in the company across advanced IT, robotics and AI-driven sizing solutions, plus training and recruiting, to further strengthen the company’s capability for highly agile project solutions.
Simon Hunter, CEO of Hunter, illustrated this point on the carbon efficiency of onshoring manufacturing, by outlining a typical client of 10,000 people with a 2% diversity of population – equalling 200 wearers. 200 wearers may have 10 different uniform items each, where this could result in anywhere up to 2,000 couriered packages unnecessarily travelling to the UK from Asia randomly over the course of a year.
An end-to-end uniform solution driven by technology
PCIAW®VOICE sought to understand Hunter’s technology offering which was outlined for us in detail.
“Hunter as One” is a specialist and bespoke end-to-end uniform solution, including R&D and an innovative 3D design process, UK manufacturing and global sourcing, AI-driven sizing, plus a fully tracked and traced care and maintenance package, right through to decontamination and disposal – with the entire process delivered, all under one roof by Team Hunter.
HunterPAC® is a unique, custom-made, dynamic ordering system with nearly 20 years of development under its belt and was the first UK dynamic ordering platform and the first IT platform to win the PCIAW® Best Website and IT Innovation Award.
HunterCARE® is a track and trace, duty of care platform for the maintenance of workwear and PPE, a truly advanced laundry and repair service that takes the pain away from customers needing to monitor the condition of PPE with a data-driven approach.
By caring for garments, HunterCARE® can help to prolong their lifespan, reducing costs and the environmental impact for the customers whilst greatly simplifying uniform management for the organisations served.
Clearly, the impact of this is quite severe in terms of the individual product-per-person impact. UK production really makes a great deal of sense for this reason. As a business, Hunter is hoping for buyers to begin giving greater weighting in the tendering process to companies capable of proving their sustainable credentials, as the drive towards carbon reduction becomes the central focus of businesses worldwide. The Hunter position is that the company’s investments are real, tangible, and auditable – and as such clients who are sincere about carbon reduction will increasingly seek out companies like Hunter as sustainability becomes a must have from their contractors.
Timothy Matthew, Uniform Account Manager, Avanti West Coast said:
“Hunter gets that diversity matters at Avanti West Coast and they provide a range of UK-made products for us to complement the core uniform collection. It matters to our people that size, ethnicity, cultural differences, allergies/medical cases, religion/religious modesty, lifestyle choices and gender diversity are considerately accommodated in our new uniform collection and that we achieve greater staff cohesion and engagement results.
Hunter works with energy, genuine empathy, and passion to match Avanti West Coast’s drive for better standards, comfort, functionality, and wearability, fulfilling its purpose and serving the front line in the pandemic.”
Simon Hunter Esq, M.B.E, C.E.O. Hunter Apparel Solutions said:
“Staff really appreciated that the company did not choose to furlough staff, that we went out of our way to keep them safe at work. The company was rewarded by unbelievable discretionary staff effort which led us to exceptional performance throughout 2020. This really bolstered an already strong positive culture which is the company’s greatest treasure. Our leadership team and other key staff really delivered for our clients.
Having focused on building the right culture since i became CEO, I now mainly focus on making sure we have the right jockey on the right horse riding in the right race, keep those people well supported and resourced and then get out of their way so they can become the best version of themselves inside Hunter.
I am setting out for Hunter to be the employer of choice in this sector, and I think this is the environment in which high performance staff want to work. Increasingly I feel we are getting closer to this goal as I find class A players seeking us out, sending us CV’s proactively. It’s a really exciting phase being the 3rd leader of Hunter, focusing on making sure the decision making is long term in orientation and that the organisation is as strong as possible for the future.”
Award Winning Profile
2021 started with an award-winning bang for Hunter when they won the UK’s top award for safety at the British Safety Industry Federation awards ceremony wining the best Safety Solution Award. This was a huge honour for Hunter competing against some of the UK’s finest and largest companies from across all sectors. The award application focused on Hunter’s cutting-edge work on improving the long-term health outcomes for fire fighters centred around product innovation blended with hi-tec care and maintenance services. Hunter was proud to promote that new award at the Emergency Services Show held at the N.E.C. September 2021.
Vivid Vision: a five-year plan for progress
For Hunter, 2021 hasn’t been a year of repair, but of a year of building on a strengthened platform based on the investments already made in 2020. Team Hunter began the deployment of their 2021-2025 Vivid Vision, which has truly inspired the wider team. Hunter’s technology-driven plan commenced with major IT investments, which are set to be game changing for clients. Having launched the use of AI sizing two years prior, in 2021 Hunter drove further investment in these technologies, which have become the core method of sizing for the business. Hunter has already utilised AI sizing for several parts of First Group, and extensively for fire service contracts in the UK and EU.
Hunter has layered a Vivid Vision on top of its purpose and values to create a strong sense of direction for the company with innovation in product and technology central to everything they do. This will drive scaling through Hunter over the 5-year period of the plan. Hunter will grow organically and through acquisition over the course of this plan
Setting out to be the technology leader in the professional clothing industry
Hunter is driving forward to cement its reputation as a technological leader in the professional clothing industry. The business is expected to deploy never-before imagined products and services, which effectively create entirely new ways of working, to service clients’ needs better. “Hunter is relentlessly seeking”, as Simon succinctly put it…
“To be the go-to provider of better.”
Hunter’s major investment in UK R&D will be key to achieving the expected results, allowing for much faster and more agile design to development. For the short to medium term, the professional clothing industry will witness and be driven by significant company failures, market consolidation, mergers, and acquisitions. Hunter believes that this disruption in the marketplace creates great opportunity for the strongest, most financially robust performers to gain market share, and Team Hunter are determined to be a major part of that upside opportunity.
Within the next five years, Hunter is expecting that the argument for carbon reduction will prevail with an industry more capable of delivering sustainably. Product durability and longevity will be much more highly sought after as markets transition away from the race to the bottom on price, which has featured too strongly in the last decade.
The future is all about providing the best tech solutions for a market where better quality, longer lasting and more sustainable products replace throw-away quality items.
+44 (0)28 7126 2542