Reef Plots Four-Season Strategy

LOS ANGELES — Reef is returning to its roots and expanding into the closed-toe business.

President Jim Gerson, who has been at the VF Corp.-owned brand for a year, said his priority has been to reposition Reef as a more authentic surf player.

“We spent a lot of time focusing on the brand DNA,” said Gerson. “We revamped ourselves as the exotic beach and surf brand, and we now run everything through that filter.”

That includes bringing back the Reef girl ads, featuring exotic women shot from behind in remote tropical locales, and debuting shop-in-shops and fresh product.

The new five-style closed-toe men’s collection, dubbed Coastal Cruisers, has canvas uppers built on the brand’s pebbled texture footbed and will retail from $43 to $55. The outsole of the shoes has a wave texture, emphasizing the brand’s connection to the beach. “We’re making sure there is a link between our sandals and our [closed-toe] footwear,” said Gerson. A women’s line is also in the works.

Gerson said he knows the category will take time to grow, but his hopes are that closed-toe footwear could make up as much as 15 percent to 20 percent of sales within five years.

“Reef needs to be on the sales floor 365 days a year, and this is something our customers have been asking for,” he said. “The initial response has been great.”

Gerson said the outlook is already appearing sunny.

“We’re seeing a renewed confidence in Reef,” he said. “We’re seeing nice results. It’s an exciting time for us.”

Still, Gerson expressed worries about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its impact on the summer tourist season along the coast of Florida. “All of us are very fearful about what’s going on,” he said, adding that his concerns were both environmental and business driven. “It will affect reorders.”

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