At Ispo, Arne Arens, The North Face's sales director for the EMEA region, announced that the brand plans to expand its retail network strongly in the region this year. While TNF wants to add seven doors to its present 25 corporate stores, there will also be a major increase in the number of franchised stores: Currently, 47 stores are run by retailer partners across Europe, and there should be 22 more of that type by the end of this year.
On top of this, The North Face is expanding its offer directly to consumers via the internet to six more countries. For the moment, the brand's e-commerce has been limited to France, the U.K. and Sweden, but in the course of this year its online shop will also be accessible from Italy, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria and Spain.
According to Arens, own retail still makes up less than 10 percent of sales for The North Face in the EMEA region, but it could be around 20 percent in the long run. On the other hand, there are no plans to reduce the turnover generated via wholesale customers, as the company's growth plan foresees strong increases with existing or new retail partners. Currently, TNF's online sales in Europe correspond to the annual sales of one single-brand brick-and-mortar store.
Furthermore, TNF wants to see a shift in the breakdown of sales by geography in the EMEA region of Europe. As of 2011, 40 percent of the turnover was made in northern part of Europe, which comprises Scandinavia, the British Isles and the Benelux countries. Thirty percent comes from the German-speaking countries as well as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. Twenty percent of sales come from Italy, Spain, France and Portugal. The remaining 10 percent is made in eastern and southeastern Europe as well as the Middle East and Africa.
The North Face has already recorded an improvement over the past few years in terms of a stronger share of sales in markets outside the northern European zone, but the brand really wants to push the business elsewhere, notably in the emerging markets, to achieve a more sensible spread of sales across the region. Besides, Arens sees still a high potential in mature outdoor markets such as France and Germany, followed by Italy and Spain.
On the product side, TNF has joined forces with ABS, the German supplier of avalanche ball rescue systems, in presenting a backpack called “Patrol 24 ABS” at Ispo. With this pack, the ABS device is removable to give you more backpack space when you're not in avalanche-prone areas.
Meanwhile, The North Face is accelerating its program to provide ecologically and socially more sustainable products. The company reports that 27 percent of its merchandise already meet the standards of Bluesign, of which TNF is a partner, and it aims to reach a ratio of 37 percent this year and 65 percent by 2015.