VF International, a unit of VF Corporation headed up by Karl Heinz Salzburger, has announced its intention to move the European head office of The North Face from Pederobba, a little Italian town in the area of Montebelluna, to the group’s European office in Lugano, Switzerland, where Vans, Reef and other brands of the group already have their European base.
Salzburger, an Italian executive who is already based in Lugano, said the move will create a more effective and efficient concentration of synergies for VF’s Outdoor and Action Sports Coalition. While it is the biggest brand within the Outdoor Coalition, TNF is the only one in VF International’s portfolio that is not integrated into the Lugano office, which has about 250 employees, or in the group’s Belgian hub at Bornem, which houses its backpacks operations.
Salzburger himself had transferred the European head office of TNF from Scotland down to the Montebelluna region, where he previously worked for Benetton SportSystem, after taking the brand’s command 12 years ago. He set up the office in the village of Volpago del Montello, but the strong growth of the business forced the company to move a few years ago to larger premises rented out in Northwave’s building at Pederobba.
The staff of TNF Europe, or rather TNF EMEA, has rapidly increased to some 160 people, and they are not just Italians. They come from 19 different countries, reflecting the wide geographical distribution of the brand. The company was planning to hire 20 more people, but it has decided to relocate instead to Lugano in the wake of Patrik Frisk, head of TNF EMEA, who was recently promoted to president of VF’s Outdoor and Action Sports Coalition for the EMEA region.
VF informed the local unions of its decision last Friday, indicating that most of the 160 employees are being offered to move to Lugano. The consultation process is set to last 45 days. Only about eight or nine members of the staff who are currently dealing with the Italian market will be allowed to stay in Italy, probably in the same region, where the outdoor culture is still strong, rather than in Milan. Meetings are planned with the unions and the local authorities.
The somewhat unexpected news of TNF Europe’s departure came as a shock to outdoor industry officials in the Montebelluna area, which has been hit in recent months by layoffs at Tecnica Group and Rossignol.