SALT LAKE CITY — The North Face wants to redefine the outdoors, and footwear will play a critical role.
“We have this strong belief that the outdoor is evolving, and it’s getting faster, it’s getting more social, there’s younger participants coming in, the design permission is fresher — and we believe that plays to our brand strength,” Todd Spaletto, president of the Alameda, Calif.-based brand, said at the Outdoor Retailer show, held in Utah earlier this month. “A lot of the things you see around our booth is the expression of that belief through our different product categories.”
The brand, a division of VF Corp, has seen business pay off. Global sales were up 11 percent in the quarter ended July, with 37 percent growth in direct-to-consumer sales.
Spaletto said the footwear line — which was re-engineered and streamlined for a spring ’14 debut under VP of global footwear Brian Moore — was one of the first categories to test that theory.
“When you look at our associates, our consumers and our athletes, we see people who are highly active individuals. They care about style and performance, and we felt there was an opportunity to speed up the design aesthetic and performance component of outdoor footwear,” he said.
And the category is key to the brand’s overall growth, he said. “Footwear represents a big financial opportunity for the brand that is relevant and connected to our DNA, and it also represents a year-round opportunity,” he said.
Spaletto said the firm was emphasizing international growth as it looks to achieve five-year revenue goals: “We think [international] could be a much higher percent of our total than it is today. There’s opportunity in Europe and big opportunity in China, in addition to growing our market share here in the Americas.”
Aiding that effort will be Patrik Frisk, who was promoted to head of the Outdoor Americas coalition — the corporate entity over The North Face — at VF in May.
“Patrik knows our brand well,” Spaletto said of Frisk, who served as president of Timberland and before that was the EMEA head of Outdoor and Action Sports for the company. “He is a great person to understand where our brand comes from, and at the same time, he has a great global understanding of the market and the potential.”
But even as it eyes international growth, the brand still will be putting focus stateside. “We’re very mindful of our distribution, and we believe there’s an opportunity to be more relevant in specialty and running specialty, and at the same time, grow our floor space and share within existing dealers we sell at,” Spaletto said.
The North Face footwear business is increasing with City Sports, according to footwear buyer Greg Zuckerman.
“They have some of the brightest people in the industry on their stuff, and they’re at a place where it’s starting to come together,” Zuckerman said. “They recognize that there’s a younger generation that needs fast, sexy product, and that’s what they’re coming out with.”