Fella Hamilton acquires wool label

The past few years have been tough for Australia’s fashion retailers, with Roger David, Metalicus, Maggie T and Diana Ferrari among those that have closed amid increased competition from overseas and online players and weak consumer sentiment.

But Melbourne-based womenswear brand Fella Hamilton has managed to avoid the fate of so many other retailers that operate storefronts in smaller strips. Last month, it even acquired Hedrena, which offers men’s and women’s clothing made with wool sourced from Australian farmers.

It’s a move intended to secure Fella Hamilton’s future by introducing the brand to a new group of customers and augmenting its existing range of casual fashion, basics and occasion wear with Hedrena’s 100 per cent wool garments. 

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“Fella Hamilton is all about stylish clothing that bears an element of comfort and quality. That’s why we felt Hedrena was such a good fit for us,” said director David Hamilton, the son of founder Fella Hamilton. 

“They’ve got a lovely range of colours and beautiful quality, and people love the fact that they’re supporting Australian farmers,” he told Inside Retail Weekly

The acquisition, which was announced last week, will see Hedrena products become available exclusively through Fella Hamilton’s stores and e-commerce site from January 2020. Existing stock will be available through Hedrena’s Merino & Co website and its Merino Snug Carrum Downs outlet in Victoria until the end of this year.  

Fella Hamilton CEO, Sharon Hamilton, said the retailer is also considering offering a small range of Hedrena menswear, such as underwear and singlets, following a strong response to the launch of the first collection in stores and online in June. 

“We’re very excited with how it’s going so far, and we’d like to be able to do further developments,” she told IRW

Fella Hamilton is celebrating its 50th year in business later this year. The brand, which targets female consumers in their 60s, 70s and 80s, started as a wholesale business with a then-novel range of terry cloth garments and accessories. David Jones and Myer predecessor Grace Bros were among those that stocked the brand before it shifted to a direct-to-consumer model in the mid-1980s. 

“It became more and more difficult in the wholesale space because the cost of manufacturing in Australia kept going up, and department stores could place an order and then just cancel it,” David said. 

The brand still manufactures about half of its products in Australia, and now has 33 bricks-and-mortar stores around the country, as well as an e-commerce site. Around 10 per cent of sales are placed through its “mail order” business, Sharon said, and about half of these are placed by phone. 

“A lot of our customers are enjoying online and happy to browse our website, but we strongly believe that we don’t just want to go online. Our customers want to ask about the product, what it’s made from, how it fits, what looks good and what doesn’t…we strongly believe in bricks-and-mortar.”

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