The VF-Target arrangement echoes the Levi’s-Wal-Mart partnership, although sources close to the deal say this one is much smaller in scope and will not immediately affect VF’s volume. In contrast, Levi’s ceo Phil Marineau has publicly bet on Levi’s entry into 5,000-plus Wal-Marts to end its long-running sales slump.
To date, Wal-Mart and Kmart have been VF’s mainstay mass accounts. The latter carries VF’s Wrangler and Riders brands, while the former carries Riders, Chic and Gitano.
Lee is arguably the denim jewel in VF’s crown — and it’s a coup, said observers, for Target to get it. On WWD’s top 100 brands, Lee came in at 14, edging its sister brand, Wrangler, by three spots.
Like Levi’s, Lee sells primarily to mid-tier retailers. Local Sears and Kohl’s stores recently had prominent table stands of Riveted by Lee, the brand’s more fashionable women’s collection endorsed by celebrity spokeswomen.
Ultimately, a deal with Target is another asset VF brings to its fight to stay atop the mass-market mountain.
The channel sells 63.3 million pairs of jeans annually and has been stealing business from other formats, according to Marshal Cohen, co-president of NPD Fashionworld.
“As much as I love Target, it is not the same powerhouse that Wal-Mart is,” reflected Cohen. “It will take them several Targets to catch up, but it’s a start.”
Thomas Lewis, an analyst with C.L. King, said VF is masterful at differentiating product lines in order to serve retailers, even producing small batches of brands like Gitano for a subset of Kmart customers who stick by the label. “One of the least appreciated things about VF is its ability to ID its customer, right down to the eight or so kinds of intimate apparel buyers.”