Martino Scabbia Guerrini is the president of VF Corporation for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, overseeing brands including The North Face, Timberland, Vans, Wrangler and Lee. He talks to Drapers about the group’s strategy, the importance of the UK market and why brands need unique product.
What are VF Corporation’s key areas of focus in your region? How does the approach vary across the group’s different brands?
I’ve been at VF for almost 11 years, so although this is a relatively new role for me [Scabbia Guerrini become president for EMEA at the end of 2016] it is the continuation of a long story as a senior manager here. We have a clear global strategy. We are a traditional long-distance wholesale company, but we want to transform and change into more of a customer-facing model. Some of our brands are ahead of this move, which is a change not only in how the organisation goes to market, but also in our culture. We need to have a strong focus on our digital platforms and our technology, and we need to evolve our business model to partner with strong digital players. That doesn’t mean key accounts, such as the big department stores, will not be our partners going forward – they definitely will – but there are players taking space in the industry who were unknown just ten years ago. Our design has to be innovative. No what matter how you go into a market, if you don’t have a strong product and uniqueness in your offer, it’s going to be very difficult.
martino vf coporation
How important is the UK market for VF Corporation?
The UK is a big market for us, and is one of the top five driving most of our business in my region. The marketplace is very volatile because sterling has changed and fluctuated a lot, but we still see potential in the UK and expect the market to grow by 6% to 8% in the coming years. London is the door to the east and west and is a key city to showcase the brands and business to consumers from Asia and north America.
What challenges and opportunities do you see for VF Corporation?
Brands need to stay relevant to consumers through their products and through engagement. We believe there are still plenty of opportunities surrounding design and the way we go to market. We can win as a corporation across all of our brands. The North Face, for example, has a very high brand awareness and is enjoying some strong momentum in Europe. As well as the traditional sports and outdoor business, the brand is appealing to younger consumers who fuse functionality with style and city life. Vans has very good distribution in the UK and it is a key market to launch new products.
For autumn 17, our casualwear brand Napapijri has collaborated with London Fashion Week designers Martine Rose and Christopher Raeburn, and accessories label Eastpak. It is important that lifestyle brands talk upwards through collaborations, and doing so also helps brings designers to an accessible audience.