Kath Smith has been appointed vice president and general manager for The North Face in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) from the end of March, at the company's European head office in Switzerland. After assignments with international consumer goods companies such as Mars, Diageo and the Adidas Group, Smith joined TNF in October 2015 as vice president in charge of sales in the same region.
The switch comes after Arne Arens, who has been in charge in EMEA since 2012, was appointed as TNF's vice president and general manager in the Americas. The function was previously held by François Goulet, who joined TNF two years ago after assignments at Rossignol and Orage, among others.
VF Corp., the owner of TNF, said that Arens would be responsible for leading and driving the brand's business and strategic initiatives in the Americas with regard to sales, merchandising and own retailing, while playing an integral part in TNF's global leadership team. Before his appointment at TNF in Europe, Arens spent eight years at Nike, working in sales, marketing and the supervision of the brand's business in football in the German-speaking countries.
The Americas has been a complicated market for TNF, with a sales decline at a low double-digit rate in the last quarter of 2016. VF explained at the time that the outdoor brand raised its own retail sales in the Americas but that its wholesale turnover declined by 30 percent, due to measures to improve inventories and the impact of retail bankruptcies. This compared with quarterly retail sales growth of more than 30 percent for TNF in EMEA, and a double-digit rate rise in wholesale turnover.
While driving TNF's European growth, Arens has played an important part in supporting outdoor participation in the region. He is the president of It's Great Out There, a coalition of outdoor companies set up for this purpose earlier this year. A spokesman said that Arens had been vital to the launch of the coalition and would remain president until its first annual general meeting at an as-yet unconfirmed date in the summer, which will elect a full board.
VF said that Smith has a proven track record of transforming companies to deliver growth. Prior to joining VF, she was chief sales officer for Sport Pursuit, the online store for flash sales of sports products. Her activities at the Adidas Group focused on the Reebok brand, where she was managing director and brand director for Northern Europe for seven years.
The appointments in EMEA and the Americas come after another management change at TNF with the departure of Todd Spaletto, the outdoor brand's president, earlier this year. Spaletto, who had been in charge for about six years, went on to join Wolverine Worldwide as president of its Outdoor and Lifestyle Group.