This week, a look at owner VF Corporation’s disappointing earnings report and Timberland’s plan to “propel” the brand’s growth from here. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, giving the Glossy+ community the opportunity to join discussions around industry topics.
On Tuesday, VF Corporation, owner of brands including Vans, Timberland, The North Face, Supreme and Dickies, reported its fiscal third-quarter of 2024 earnings, which missed analyst expectations. The company’s revenue for the quarter fell 16% year-over-year, to $2.96 billion.
On the earnings call, company executives pointed to the multiple changes that have been enacted since Bracken Darrell took over the role of VF Corp CEO in July. Along with cutting costs and making organizational changes, it’s been shopping around brands in its Global Packs business, including Kipling, Eastpak and JanSport. In addition, they reminded investors that, as announced in October, all of the company’s brands have been under review for possible divestment.
VF Corp’s brands that slumped most during the quarter, which ended on December 30 and included the holiday shopping season, included Vans, with a revenue drop of 28%, Timberland, which dipped 21%, and Dickies, which fell 16%.
For its part, Timberland’s performance was owed to the quarter’s unseasonably warm weather, impacting the sales of its boots — including to retailers which pulled back on the outerwear segment. In the U.S. market, which proved a drain on Timberland sales, the brand is heavily reliant on wholesale partners. The brand’s inventory levels are, therefore, inflated, presenting another challenge. Building up Timberland’s direct e-commerce sales is now a “core strategy,” Darrell noted. He also called out the brand’s new leadership, with his appointment of VF Corp veteran Nina Flood to the role of global brand president in December.
Also set to work to the brand’s advantage, Darrell said, is Timberland’s Louis Vuitton collaboration, which “created enormous buzz at Paris Fashion Week” in January. He added, “I’m excited about the brand’s potential. More to come on that in future calls.” The collaboration, which includes a classic Timberland boot covered in Louis Vuitton’s signature LVs, is for the fall-winter 2024 season, which means styles should hit stores this summer.
Inside Timberland’s big brand moment, next steps
While the Louis Vuitton collaboration received the most attention, it was just one element of a multifaceted brand mega-moment that kicked off Timberland’s 51st year in business, in Paris. During Paris Fashion Week Men’s, Timberland collaborations also rolled out on the runways of Wales Bonner and White Mountaineering. And a campaign dubbed “Je T’imbs,” described by the brand as “a tribute” to Paris, invaded the city. Components included giant billboards, wild postings, retail windows, nighttime projections, café takeovers and an afterparty, with central imagery spotlighting an original Timberland boot.
According to Geraldo Rodriguez, Timberland’s head of energy marketing and collaborations since 2021, the overall activation was years in the making, with one of the collaborations “technically” being an eight-year project. He declined to comment on specifics around work with brand partners.
Rodriguez, who formerly spent a year as head of marketing for Aimé Leon Dore, has a decade of experience in driving strategic partnerships. Below, he breaks down what he’s learned about effective collaborations, how that’s informed his work with brands including Louis Vuitton and how 2023 provided the groundwork for Timberland’s “propelled” future.
To Timberland, what was the significance of January’s simultaneous rollouts of the “Je T’imbs” campaign and multiple brand collaborations?
“Paris Fashion Week was an important moment for Timberland because, in 2023, we celebrated our 50th anniversary. And we told ourselves, ‘This isn’t a birthday party; this is our moment to propel the brand into the future.’ So, while we did do celebratory products and activations and release a documentary, the larger objective was that, come 2024 and the years following, we would have done such excellent work retelling our brand narrative in 2023 that we’d be on top of the world. And that strategy worked. … When you’re part of the conversation, that’s a success story.
At Paris Fashion Week, we sent the world a reminder of why Timberland is the best boot brand in the world and how valuable our role is within culture. The beauty of the Timberland brand is that we can show up on the biggest stage at Paris Fashion Week. But also, if I’m walking the streets of New York, I’ll see some construction workers wearing the same boots. I’ll see some guys playing basketball in the same boots. I’ll see some people dressed for fashion purposes in the boots. It’s a boot for everyone.”
What were the challenges of aligning the campaign and the collabs?
“The creative problem-solving that we had to do was say, ‘OK, we have these big moments happening, but how do we show up as a brand?’ We knew we had to show up outside of the runway — it was warranted. So we were on the ground. We partnered with different authenticators, or influencers, on the ground. And we made sure that our presence was felt. And we’re fortunate to say that it was. That was reciprocated by the Parisian culture. It was a full 360 [degree] moment, and that’s how we like to operate.”
Do you plan to work with your Paris collaborators beyond fall-winter 2024?
“Part of our strategy is to build long-term relationships. … So, certainly, the goal is to continue the momentum and to build equity within these partnerships.”
What’s Timberland’s approach to collaborations?
“Partnerships and collaborations have become an industry standard. That’s a key insight for us: The consumer is expecting collaborations from all the brands within our space. What we focus on is partnerships that stand the test of time. [Each] makes sense when it’s dissected, at the very core of it. in addition, we’re partnering with other entities that share values with us. And we’re partnering with them because we’re exploring new territories that we wouldn’t be able to explore without them. … I’m fortunate to work at an iconic brand like Timberland because, more times than not, we’re fielding requests from people who want to work with us. We get to be selective, in the best way possible. … And we’re always listening and learning what’s out there. Immersing the brand into new spaces and contemporizing the brand are things we always push for.”
What’s the ideal collaborative process between brands?
“The best case scenario is that the products are a byproduct of the story we mutually want to tell. We align on a relationship and we figure out what we want to do: What’s the larger narrative? And then we put pen to paper, from a design perspective, aligning on the go-to-market strategy and figuring out, when that launch moment comes, how we’re telling this story in a big way: How are we involving our respective communities and doing something that stands the test of time? That’s the end goal: How do we do something that’s tried and true versus transactional? We’re seeing a lot of transactional [collaborations] these days.”
What exactly is energy marketing, which you head up at Timberland?
“[Energy marketing] functions as the bridge between culture and brand — we’re translators for the brand and the creative. We operate in this middle space where we speak two languages.”
What’s inspiring you now?
“Innovation and [the concept of] pushing culture forward. The [questions] of: ‘How do we continue to evolve this culture we operate in so that it’s not nostalgic all the time? And how do we contemporize the nostalgia?’”
Is there anything Timberland is leaving in the past, as it embarks on its next 50 years?
“No, people love us because we stay true to our roots. And certainly internally, with our teams, that’s always the focus. That’s always the mood board: Going back to the origin story of what Timberland is and what it stands for. I largely believe that’s why our consumers have brand loyalty to us, and that’s why we’re going to continue winning: We’ve never turned our [back] on who we are as a brand.”
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