Former Hobbs chief executive Nick Samuel has been remembered by the industry as an innovator with a passion for retail and tireless energy.

Samuel, who died on Tuesday aged 58 following a battle with cancer, grew womenswear retailer Hobbs from a 30-store business in 2002 to more than 100 stores by the time he stepped down as chief executive in 2008. He took a non-executive director role for a further year.

Hobbs chief executive Nicky Dulieu, who was hired by Samuel as chief operating officer in 2007, said Samuel was “almost superhuman”. She said he was the life and the soul of the party, “able to network all night or run 20 miles at the weekend, then be at his desk at 7.30am the next day, fresh and full of ideas for the business”.

Another of Samuel’s former colleagues, Mike Trotman, who was finance director at Hobbs before leaving in 2006 to join shirtmaker TM Lewin, remembered Samuel for his “fantastic sense of humour”.

“He would always break up tense situations with his dry wit,” said Trotman. “He was always the last to leave a party and was the sort of guy everyone loved to have a drink with. We remained great friends after I left Hobbs and I’ll miss him dearly.”

Prior to joining Hobbs, Samuel was finance director for womenswear retailer Karen Millen.

Aurora chief executive Derek Lovelock described Samuel as “one of the true gentlemen of the retail industry; modest, thoughtful, intelligent and immensely experienced”.

After leaving the Hobbs board last year, Samuel continued to keep his finger on the retail pulse with non-executive director roles with companies including sports retailer Blacks Leisure and ethical etailer Ascension. He was also a trustee of the Textile Industry Children’s Trust, whose chairman David Carter-Johnson said: “In all the years I knew him I never heard him raise his voice because he got his point across without needing to - he commanded respect and when he spoke you listened.”

Samuel is survived by his wife Helen and his children Ben and Hannah.