The North Face is aiming to significantly increase its market share in Germany, after several management changes, increased retail investments and a pick-up in consumer interest that transpired with a jump of 27 percent in the outdoor brand's own online sales in the country last year.
The sustained growth of TNF's European business, as detailed above, has been driven to a large extent by its segmentation strategy, providing distinct ranges to different types of retailers. But Kath Smith, general manager for TNF in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) said at Ispo Munich that the strategy had only been implemented properly in Germany last year, implying that the country has the biggest potential for the brand in Europe.
As previously reported, Carola Arnold became TNF's sales director for the German-speaking countries about a year ago, coming from Nike. Since then, the company has expanded the German team with more managers from companies such as Odlo and Asics. TNF has changed its head of field sales and head of key accounts in Germany, and added several more staff.
The upgrades and expansion in the German team have been accompanied by extra investments in retail partnerships and marketing. Smith has spent more time in Germany than in any other market in the last year, discussing strategic plans with leading retailers.
Smith said that orders in Germany increased at a single-digit rate for the spring, which compares with high double-digit increases in the U.K., Italy and France, the brand's three other priority markets in Europe. However, she regards the growth of the brand's online business as an indicator of increased appetite for the brand, and anticipates that it will transpire at wholesale level later this year. While TNF's online sales in Germany increased by 27 percent for the full year, they clearly accelerated in the second part of the year, when they soared by 67 percent.
The brand is already reporting double-digit growth with Globetrotter. This was aided by investments in the retailer's store in Cologne, where The North Face installed its most elaborate outdoor retail presentation, with staff support. This Reinvent Outdoor Retail proposition has only been implemented in two other stores so far, Sportler in Bolzano and Blacks in Manchester.
The retail investments in Germany have also led to the opening of the brand's Urban Exploration store in Berlin, the second in Europe after London. TNF is targeting the opening of another Urban Exploration store in Germany this year, potentially in Hamburg.
At the same time, the team has been reinforced at European level with the appointment of Kathy Hines as new vice president of marketing and strategy earlier this year. She previously held the same job on a global level for Napapijri, another brand owned by VF Corporation.
Next on the agenda in terms of marketing is a large-scale campaign focusing on women in March. As previously reported, this category has been in strong focus since last year, which has supported high double-digit sales increases in sell-in for the spring. The increase in demand relates to women's products but TNF said that it has also been downsizing its men's products, as it found that it was trendy for young female consumers to buy men's products and opt for an androgynous style.