Billion-pound retail empire inspired by online CD purchase

The new offices at Manchester Airport

The Hut Group was founded in 2004 by Matthew Moulding and John Gallemore.

Burnley-born Moulding studied industrial economics at the University of Nottingham before going on to qualify as a chartered accountant. His father was a tarmac contractor and his mother was an antiques trader.

He went on to work at phone company the Caudwell Group, where he became finance director of the distribution business, working directly with John Caudwell.

Moulding launched The Hut Group with a £500,000 investment – inspired by buying a CD online – with a focus on entertainment products such as music and gaming.

He persuaded former Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy and M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose to become early investors, and within three years the business was breaking even.

The Hut Group originally created white-label websites for large physical retailers.

These included ASDA, Argos Entertainment, Tesco and WHSmith.

By 2009 it had topped the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 league table.

It embarked on a series of brand acquisitions and in 2014 began construction work at Omega, in Warrington on a one million square foot logistics and manufacturing operation.

Further brand acquisitions followed, including Hale Country Club and Spa in 2016, then, in 2018, its international expansion took off with the opening of an 800,000 sq ft fulfilment and manufacturing centre in Poland, coinciding with its success in the Queen’s Award for Enterprise International Trade category.

Last year it started building THQ and THG ICON, a $1bn office and studio development next to Manchester Airport.

THQ will span 280,000 sq ft and provide up to 10,000 jobs, while ICON, its content creation studio, will cover more than 11.6 acres with, in excess of, 2,000 staff.

The Hut Group is now one of the world’s largest online retailers in beauty and nutrition powered by THG Ingenuity, its all-in-one growth platform combining ecommerce tech, hosting, translation, and a complete fulfilment infrastructure.

The group trades in 169 countries, dealing in 31 languages and 39 currencies.

Shareholders include Old Mutual Global Investors, BlackRock Funds, Sofina, Merian Chrysalis Investments, Balderton and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.