Shortly after announcing the acquisition of Altra, VF Corp. said that Steve Murray is returning to the group in the new position of vice president in charge of strategic projects. One of his tasks will be to develop the footwear product strategy of The North Face and to support the integration of the Altra brand. He will also work on the extension of VF's technical capabilities in the outdoor sector, indicating perhaps that VF has something else up its sleeve.
With its roots in trail running and its technological know-how, Altra should help TNF to develop a more compelling footwear offer under its own label. That was one of the goals behind VF's takeover in 2011 of Timberland, a brand that is less technical and more lifestyle-oriented. As a result, TNF' footwear segment has remained in a range estimated at between 15 and 20 percent of the brand's total sales. His input may also help Altra to further develop its small apparel range.
Murray is an experienced executive who started in the sporting goods industry by working for Dunlop Slazenger and Reebok between 1986 and 1998, when he joined Vans as international director and then as chief marketing officer. He was made president of Vans in 2004, when the brand was acquired by VF. Five years later, he was promoted to the position of president of VF's action sports coalition.
Murray left the group in 2010 to become brand president of Urban Outfitters. Between 2011 and 2014, he ran Deckers Brands' operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa out of their headquarters in London. He then spent three successful years until last October as chief executive of Airwear International, the U.K.-based owner of the Dr. Martens brand of brown shoes.
Joining VF's Senior Leadership Team, Murray will report directly to Steve Rendle, chairman, president and chief executive of VF. In a public statement, Rendle mentioned the fact that Murray “possesses a unique blend of apparel and footwear industry expertise, a proven record of leading successful business transformations, and an intimate knowledge of the VF business model.”