Last Updated on Thursday, 14 April, 2022 at 10:05 am by Andre Camilleri
Future proofing your business, being agile to react, effective inventory management, collaborative approach with all stakeholders and working towards a common goal were all integral to riding out the Covid-19 storm, says CHRIS MUSCAT, Hudson Group CEO in an interview with The Malta Business Weekly editor, Dayna Camilleri Clarke.
Speaking about the current economic climate and the effect on the Group, Muscat states: “The pandemic is not over, transmission is still ongoing and its impacts are being felt across, from supply chain issues, impacts on production reduced inventory for us to sell, spiralling costs in all sectors and a shortage of readily available skilled workers. We might have adapted to working within a Covid environment, but the storm is not over.”
Hudson is a significant operator in the international field. In Africa, it has an immense client base, responsible for delivering branded sportswear products, including Nike, to over 30 countries. Hudson also operates retail stores in Malta, Algeria, Morocco, Cyprus and Italy through offices in these countries.
Speaking from Hudson’s new distribution centre in Hal Far that was completed in late 2020, Muscat explains that despite Covid, Hudson remained committed and finalised this significant investment of €3.5m on this new distribution centre. The investment was financed in part by the bond proceeds issued by Hudson Malta plc in 2018.
The site is certainly an impressive operation. Every day the distribution centre welcomes products from Asia and Europe straight from Freeport, to be shipped on to over 20 countries in Africa. It serves as the optimal midpoint between international brands and in-country retailers. The purposely-built centre, which spans a total area of 5,000 sq.m., sets the company in a strong position to welcome new brands and service more clients within Africa.
How has the company been able to achieve such a feat? Muscat replies: “We have been in Africa for a decade now, building a client base across Africa. From our distribution centre our clients don’t need to order huge volumes of stock, we are able to compartmentalize orders and handle smaller requests; this has been a vital tool for us throughout the pandemic, ensuring all can access our brands such as Nike and Converse, regardless of whether they are a small outlet or a huge business. Our current footholds are Algeria and Morocco, however, Muscat explains Nigeria is the next focus for the company. “Malta’s location has been strategic for centuries, we are literally at the crossroads of Europe and Africa and this is a fantastic opportunity for any Malta-based business,” adds Muscat.
Hudson is also the owner of streetwear brand, Urban Jungle which is present in Malta, Italy, Morocco, Algeria and more importantly online and Blackbox, a more exclusive sneaker destination currently only sold in Italy and online. Though Hudson Holdings was founded in 2006, the Group’s roots reach as far back as 1987 when the first pair of Nike shoes was sold in Malta. “Ensuring our websites were strong was also key to serving our customers throughout the pandemic, especially during lockdown. We managed, thanks to the input from all sectors of the Group, to launch hudsonstore.com to serve the Maltese market solely from internal resources within two weeks of lockdown. We are currently going through a huge software overhaul to further futureproof our business and allow us to be even more agile,” explains Muscat.
In December, the Group also saw further growth by acquiring Trilogy – a leading retailer in Malta in the premium-end fashion sector with brands such as Calvin Klein, Armani Exchange, Mango, Tommy Hilfiger and Tommy Jeans. It is now a fully-owned subsidiary of Hudson. Hudson will have new opportunities in the African markets given the demand for the leading international brands represented by Trilogy and the significant brand management experience of Trilogy’s team.
This year, the Group has plans to open 15 stores across six countries adding new brands and new countries as well as the addition of an exciting innovative concept store in Malta. Muscat concludes by reiterating his gratitude to the company’s employees for their hard work and commitment throughout the pandemic to date and thanks them for defying the odds that resulted in an overall outcome and success of the company, despite the challenges presented by Covid-19.