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Company of the Year: VF Corp.

The apparel giant has claimed its place as a force in footwear.

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A Timberland '14 campaign.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

“Left on their own, each of these brands is big enough that they could invest [in something like this], but when you combine them on the larger scale of VF, you can get a much larger commitment,” Rendle said.

Todd Spaletto, president of Alameda, Calif.-based The North Face, said that brand’s push into footwear — a major focus as it aims to hit $3.3 billion across all categories in 2017, up from $2 billion this year — will be boosted by the new center. “When you have brands like Timberland and Vans [on board], you have a growing nucleus of footwear intelligence that can help with commercialization, fit, flow and newness,” he said. “Footwear is a big business for us, but it can be a lot bigger.”

While the technology facility will service all the footwear brands, Citi’s McShane said the company’s ability to keep its labels distinct remains an important advantage. “That’s why its acquisitions have worked so well,” she added. “[VF] has the infrastructure to support the brands and keep them separate while leveraging the corporate part of it.”

The firm’s disciplined approach has been a benefit at Timberland, said Patrik Frisk, president of Timberland, which has now been part of the company for two years.

“VF is a big company with a lot of smart, seasoned people at the helm, people who understand that nuance of knowing when and where to provide leadership and guidance, and when to let the brands take the reins,” Frisk said. “But VF has amazing, time-tested, go-to-market processes in place to keep everyone on task and moving in one direction. They work with you to set a strategy and stick with it, and also make sure you have the resources to see it through.”

A wide range of the firm’s footwear offerings are carried in Journeys stores. “[VF’s] passion, expertise and collective commitment to Journeys over the years have demonstrated the true spirit of a strong, long-lasting partnership,” said James Estepa, president and CEO of Journeys Group, a division of Nashville, Tenn.-based Genesco Inc.

Emma Hunter, footwear buyer at Park City, Utah-based Backcountry.com, said increased attention to detail and differentiation have paid off for Timberland and The North Face.

“Timberland has been performing better than expected, and the [newer] casual styles are doing well,” she said. “And The North Face has better styles and a product story behind it that makes it more competitive [than before]. Next year is going to look really good.”

But don’t expect the company to rest on its laurels. As it grows the existing businesses, Wiseman said VF actively looks for additional acquisitions, especially in the footwear arena.

“We have a broad portfolio of brands, but only a few of them are centered around footwear, and we see it as a much bigger opportunity,” he said. “I can’t think of any 48-hour period in the last eight years when I was not involved in an acquisition discussion. I was in one five minutes ago. But to come from where we were 10 years ago to now, where [footwear] is about 25 percent of total revenue, it’s become a pretty big number here, and there’s a lot of potential for other brands.”

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