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What to expect from Superdry co-founder’s new hotel brand

Julian Dunkerton, co-founder of fashion giant Superdry and owner of The Lucky Onion, has announced the launch of a brand-new venture – the hotel brand Cult Hotels.

For nearly 20 years, Superdry has grown from a small group of UK clothing stores into a huge global brand with outlets across every continent. As a co-founder, Dunkerton has been there since the beginning – and has used this success to create other business opportunities.

The Lucky Onion – the UK restaurant and pub group run by him and Jade Dunkerton – is one such example of how he has moved into different sectors. Now, he plans to bring something new to the UK hospitality scene with Cult Hotels, which will specialise in boutique conversions.

The group’s first property will be The George, set in the heart of Cheltenham – due to open in spring this year. Setting the tone for the overall concept, the 46-room hotel (made up of several refurbished grade-II listed regency townhouses) will centre on the unique culture and experiences visitors can expect from the location.

Cult icon: a blast from the past

For Dunkerton, the launch of the brand is a reference to the Superdry forerunner, Cult Clothing, that existed on UK high streets before becoming part of the more famous chain of stores.

“The name Cult Hotels is a nod to my history and where it all began for me,” said Dunkerton. “Naturally, Cheltenham is home to the flagship hotel – The George. As an entrepreneur, I identified a gap in the market to create a new hotel concept that is accessible, approachable and cool.”

His vision for the brand is clear. “Cult Hotels exists for the savvy traveller who values aesthetic and culture at a fair price,” he says. “My ambition with this venture is to continue to breathe new life into old buildings and bring a game-changing hotel concept to the marketplace.”

A fresh look for urban tourism

Cult Hotels will enter a challenging hotel market, even if Dunkerton is confident in the brand’s ability to offer something new and interesting to guests. Despite an increase in rates in London (largely due to the devaluation of Sterling), the UK’s regional markets haven’t performed as well.

Average room rates for regional properties were falling in 2019, while a steady development pipeline means that the competition for occupancy won’t be getting any easier for hoteliers. Cult Hotels will hope that the conversion of the iconic George Hotel will appeal to Cheltenham’s visitors – especially during busy periods like the Cheltenham Festival.

The George won’t be Cult’s only hotel to open, however. It already has plans for the conversion of police station in the City of London – as well as a transformation of Broadmoor Hospital, the former high-security psychiatric hospital. This is all part of a wider UK roll-out over the coming years – one that looks to take advantage of a renewed interest in authentic city hospitality experiences.

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