Ian Watson

Drapers Fashion Forum

Industry expert

 Ian Watson

Ian Watson

Hotter Shoes , CEO

Ian Watson is the visionary CEO and driving force behind one of the UK’s most successful shoe brands, Hotter Shoes.

As the UK’s largest specialist footwear brand, Hotter Shoes sells over a million pairs of shoes a year to more than four million customers around the world. Ian is credited with having accelerated the company’s digital growth, and Hotter Shoes is now seen as a major player in the e-commerce space.

By re-positioning Hotter Shoes as a digitally led, direct to consumer e-commerce platform, Watson has successfully navigated both the Covid-19 pandemic and the downturn in the traditional bricks and mortar retail environment, helping to ensure the brand’s longevity, growth and investment opportunities.

Since leaving school at 16, Watson has earned the respect of his peers as an astute, engaging and charismatic business leader. He began his career at Shipley Ronal, a speciality chemical supplier, before moving to Irwin Industrial Tools in Germany. It was here that he honed his skills in international strategic management and progressed to the role of vice president Europe / Asia Pacific.

As European managing director of Britax Childcare, Watson was part of the management team that prepared the company for its successful sale to Nordic Capital for £446M in 2011. Watson was pivotal in strategic changes leading up to the sale and oversaw an 80% increase in profitability.

Building on his experience of the youth market, Watson became CEO of Start-Rite Shoes, the first to be appointed from outside the family. Under his successful leadership, he steered the company away from the high street and focused on developing the e-commerce side of the business, helping it to become less dependent on its wholesale arm and equipped to deal directly with consumers.

Watson is a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers, governor at the Norwich University of Art and was a non-executive director of Global Chair Components Ltd.

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