Tasked with increasing Timberland’s sales by 50% over the next four years, Andy Hewat is focusing on clothing and women’s footwear for spring 14
Timberland’s country manager for the UK and Republic of Ireland, Andy Hewat, has a daunting task on his hands: to help grow the outdoor clothing and footwear brand by 50% in the next three to four years. It’s an objective set by US brand house VF Corporation, which acquired Timberland in September 2011 for $2bn (£1.27bn) and completed the official integration into its portfolio in April this year.
“VF is the biggest global branded apparel manufacturer and has an overall goal of being a $17bn (£10.8bn) business by 2017,” Hewat explains. “Timberland, like Vans, North Face and the other brands under VF, has to grow 13% year on year between now and then in order to do that. It’s a challenge, but we can absolutely grow our business by 50% in the next three to four years by getting the apparel side correct, no question.”
Turnover at Timberland in 2012 was $1.5bn (£0.95bn) globally and the company aims to reach $2.3bn (£1.5bn) by 2017. Although no figure was available for the UK specifically, it is the fourth-largest market for the brand and has a “significant” yield.
For spring 14, Hewat’s focus is firmly on clothing and he is aware of the challenges he faces. Despite being in the clothing market since 1988, Timberland is currently sold through 100 doors in the UK, including John Lewis and independent department store Psyche in Middlesbrough, compared with a 330-strong stockist base with 550 doors in footwear. Clothing makes up 21% of total sales.
The lack of detail in previous clothing collections led to criticism from some Timberland stockists. Craig Oliver, menswear buyer at Jules B, which has eight stores in the Northeast, says: “There’s nothing wrong with Timberland’s product but there isn’t really a reason to buy it. With our other outerwear brands, like Barbour for example, there are more selling points and more attention to detail. They need to move the product on; it’s not that different to how it was years ago. Customers today want that bit more for their money.”
Hewat says the appointment of Rene Skytte - former product director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at North Face - as Timberland’s vice president of global apparel in January 2012 has been instrumental in addressing these issues and driving the clothing arm on in “leaps and bounds”. He adds that Timberland has taken its approach to fashion “up a step” by focusing on the quality and detail of the garments produced in the 1,200-piece menswear collection.
“Take my [Timberland] shirt for example.
I shouldn’t be wearing a slim-fit shirt - that ship sailed for me a long time ago,” laughs Hewat. “That’s one of the problems we’ve had at Timberland, the cut and the blocks of the garments weren’t correct. Customers were coming in and they didn’t know their size, so we’ve addressed that issue. We are also making sure the finishing touches are right, that the best buttons are used with a four stitch, that the collar stays down, that the fabric on the hem doesn’t fray in the wash. These finishing touches and detail are what it’s all about.”
Hewat says he will target Timberland’s existing footwear stockists with the clothing line, which wholesales at £22 for a polo shirt and £64 for an Abington jacket, with a mark-up of 2.7. “We have to make sure we are placed with the right people. We have to work harder and smarter at John Lewis,” says Hewat - the brand’s clothing is currently in 18 of the retailer’s department stores.
“I also want to sign up for [mainstream trade show] Moda next season as independents play a huge part in our business. I want to prove to them that we deserve to take shelf space away from other brands,” he adds.
Hewat also admits that Timberland’s women’s clothing line has been “slow to get out of the blocks” and, as a result, the brand is “starting from scratch” in terms of design. The 200-piece collection for spring 14 - only the third under global design director for apparel and accessories Camila Vesth - is more feminine than previous ranges, with nipped-in waists featuring belts, drawstring cords and reinforced seams. The women’s range will be available at the brand’s 19 standalone stores, 11 franchise stores in the UK and four wholesale stockists.
Women’s footwear, which makes up 30% of Timberland’s footwear business, is a priority for Hewat. “[Sell-through] is coming through from some of the major stores now that we didn’t have previously, possibly because other brands may have softened in the market and they feel Timberland is well positioned to take advantage of that,” he says.
Wholesale prices for footwear currently stand at £29 for slip-on shoes, £40 for boat shoes and £72 for boots. One stockist told Drapers that price points for the boots are too high and despite liking the style, customers are put off by the price tag. But Hewat insists that while it tries to be competitive, the brand’s premium positioning means it wouldn’t consider “going to war on prices” or introducing a sub-brand. He adds that the label “swallowed cost wherever possible” to keep pricing competitive for spring 14.
The spring 14 collection will be preceded by a consumer-led marketing campaign for autumn 13, as part of Timberland’s 40th anniversary this year. Timberland will kick off the birthday campaign - called ‘Best Then Better Now’ - next month, with a pop-up shop in Selfridges’ London store on September 3. The pop-up will be located opposite the concession of high street footwear retailer Office - the brand accounts for 8% of Office’s sales - and feature styles from the 1970s through to today.
“It’s about taking the Timberland message, visualising it and bringing it to life for the consumer,” says Hewat. “The 10061 boots we had back in the day were the best boots then, but now Timberland is [bigger] than it was before.”
Other consumer-driven incentives include an “anniversary tour” within the Timberland retail stores on Regent Street, in Westfield London in White City, the Trafford Centre in Manchester and in Glasgow, beginning September 26 and running until October 19, which will allow shoppers to get their purchases customised with laser printing. A limited-edition collection of 1,973 pairs (1973 being the year the brand was founded) of the original 10061 Timberland boots will also be available in selected independent retailers, including footwear retailer Hanon in Aberdeen.
When asked about expansion plans for 2014, Hewat says Timberland has no intention of opening more standalone stores, as the brand’s existing ones are already “in the right locations” across the UK. Likewise, it is not seeking to extend its footwear accounts as it doesn’t wish to “saturate the market” - it wants instead to increase the offering of women’s shoes within the retailers it currently trades with.
Hewat says Timberland has tidied up its wholesale distribution over the past year in order to protect the brand and ensure it is placed with the right retailers. “We’ve stopped dealing with certain customers that we didn’t feel were right for the brand,” he explains, declining to give names. “In the past Timberland would have had a lot of business with the discount channel that we never needed for a premium brand like ours.”
He adds: “We looked at what acquisitions are going on in the market and we walked away from around a dozen accounts. It hits your numbers when you start walking away from retailers that had a lot of business with you but it’s for the greater good of the brand. Timberland had to take control of its own destiny.”