Leaders in focus: Sara Prowse

Agenda magazine Agenda magazine

Sara Prowse is a retail industry big hitter, with a career that’s spanned both the traditional bricks-and-mortar and the digital side of the sector, in the UK and internationally.

She is the former CEO of Hotter, a multi-channel footwear brand with 80 UK stores.

What encouraged you to join Hotter?

Of all the product categories in retail, my favourite is footwear. I have a personal passion for footwear but, from a business perspective, they’re the products I’ve enjoyed working with the most, in terms of relationships with both clients and suppliers.

What has been key to Hotter's success?

We’re very good at making great shoes that meet high standards of style, comfort, fit and quality. We’re a unique brand, in that we manufacture everything in the UK. That’s given us a huge competitive advantage, and greater agility and flexibility as a business.

Online has been a key sales channel for us. We now receive around 14 million visitors each year and it’s the fastest growing area of the business. This was achieved through a combination of factors, including launching a mobile optimised site and more recently the Hotter app, with a focus on improving the customer experience.

What challenges have you faced?

We’ve hit a few bumps in the road. Both the devaluation of sterling and a lack of consumer confidence have made the current domestic trading environment very challenging, but we haven’t taken our sights off international opportunities.

Is overseas expansion the future for Hotter?

Hotter’s current strategy is to drive and grow the brand here in the UK as well as expanding into the US. One thing we’ve successfully managed to leverage is our Britishness. The ‘Made in Britain’ mark holds a lot of sway with consumers.

How are you future-proofing?

We’ve launched a very large investment programme to replace our enterprise resource planning system, which is the mainstay of the business. The old system wasn’t fit for purpose for an omni-channel retailer and the new one will present one version of the brand across all channels.

We’ll also invest in our digital roadmap, driving online conversion rates and launching a new web platform in 2020.

What is your business objective for 2019?

We need to figure out how to navigate choppy waters. Because Hotter is flexible, and our manufacturing is mostly UK-based, we’re well prepared to face uncertainty.

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