The North Face is leading the refurbished product proposition

Leveraging new partnerships with a waterless cleaning service and resale e-commerce platform, The North Face is striving to increase annual sales through its Renewed resale program by a double-digit percentage. The North Face has grown its annual revenue 21% since 2020, to $3.26 billion.

The North Face launched Renewed, its self-run resale platform, in 2018, and it’s set to make the platform a bigger focus through 2023. Last week, in the first-quarter earnings report for its fiscal 2023, its umbrella company, VF Corp, reported that The North Face was the top revenue driver among its brands, seeing a growth of 31%, to $481.1 million in that quarter. Its other brands include Vans and Timberland. In 2018, The North Face execs noticed an uptick in demand for the brand’s products on resale sites including eBay and Poshmark. That inspired them to launch sales of its used and refurbished products, getting pieces back from customers through in-store donations and diverting them from landfills. The brand has been scaling its circularity efforts in recent years to compete with rival Patagonia. 

To accelerate this, The North Face brought on two partners in May. That includes Tersus, which facilitates the waterless cleaning, repair, warehousing and shipping logistics of the refurbished products. The second, Archive, created the website for the resale assortment. The objective of the site is to provide a unique e-commerce experience for The North Face customers by showcasing garments’ full lifecycles.  That includes specifications like their age and where their materials were sourced. The site is accessible via thenorthface.com.

“Renewed product is different from our core e-commerce business,” said Matt Schiff, The North Face’s vp of e-commerce. “There are a lot of additional considerations, like the quality of the garment: Is it near new? Is it showing imperfections? We had to provide some clarity to that on the site.”

“For a lot of brands, refurbished resale has felt like a scary unknown. Or, they’re interested in it, but they don’t see it as more than a side project,” said Emily Gittins, Archive co-founder and CEO. “But in the last six months, it’s become a key strategic priority for many brands. We’re having conversations now at the CEO level, with them coming to us and saying they’ve decided resale is a huge part of their business that they’re missing out on and they want to take back that market.” Archive works with brands including Scandinavian apparel company Filipa K and luxury brand Oscar de la Renta. Patagonia and Levi’s also have refurbished product sites that offer customers access to the brand at a discount. 

With Renewed, The North Face is targeting three customer groups. That includes “a consumer who feels like Renewed products offer them an entryway into the brand, when they’d typically be limited by price; fashion people who are interested in older products; and a huge, engaged audience of people who are only buying product that exists in a circular business model,” said Schiff. Depending on the age of the refurbished item, customers can get items like a classic Balham down puffer jacket for up to half of the price of a new one. 

Gittins said that, of all of Archive’s clients, The North Face is thinking the most about the future of brand inventory and circular lifecycles. “Their vision for Renewed, in that it [encompasses] peer-to-peer [sales], resale, damaged returns and many different sources of supply in a single experience is ahead of the market. This is the future of what refurbished resale looks like for a lot of brands,” she said. 

One of the limitations to growing [a program offering refurbished styles] is the intake of product, in terms of the [vast] amount of damaged product that’s out in the ecosystem,” said Schiff. “There are certainly costs associated with it, but we consider this to be a commercially-driven business opportunity.” Shiff expects Renewed to the overall margin and profitability of the business positively as the category grows with the launch of a peer-to-peer operation — a trial is already underway in Canada, and it will be coming to the U.S. And he expects the category’s growth to be in line or stronger, compared to North Face’s core assortment sold online.

In September, The North Face will do one step further by introducing its first capsule collection specifically made for a renewed circular business model. The brand was not able to disclose how many items will be in the capsule. Customers will be informed through marketing and product pages where the product came from, what that means in terms of the brand’s commitment to renew, how to return the product in the future and what the brand will then do with it.

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