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Eric Wiseman set the tone for his tenure as the new chief executive officer of VF Corp. during the company’s annual meeting with analysts on Wednesday, unveiling an aggressive five-year growth strategy that targets increasing revenues to $11 billion by 2012 from an already-industry-leading $7 billion.
Wiseman, who took the reins as ceo on Jan. 1, upped guidance for revenues, operating margins and earnings per share over the next five years for the Greensboro, N.C.-based apparel giant. Revenues are expected to increase between 8 and 10 percent annually compared with previous targets of 6 to 8 percent annual growth. EPS are expected to grow between 10 and 11 percent a year, driven by a 15 percent improvement in operating margins.
VF has spent the last five years transforming itself from a conservative denim and innerwear manufacturer into a lifestyle brand powerhouse. While that strategy, implemented under former ceo and current chairman Mackey McDonald, has resulted in increasing revenues, earnings and share price, Wiseman’s new targets indicate a belief that much of the company’s potential has yet to be tapped.
“The diversity of our business model and our ability to execute well we believe allows us to deliver growth even in this difficult economic environment,” said Wiseman during the meeting.
For Wiseman and his management team, the next stage in VF’s evolution will depend on capitalizing on the company’s growing portfolio of brands to become a true global brand titan. The primary drivers of this effort will be expansion in international markets and growing e-commerce and branded-retail operations. The company anticipates that its international business will account for 33 percent of revenues, or $3.6 billion, by 2012. International revenues are currently at around $2 billion.
Despite the heavy emphasis on expanding direct-to-consumer operations, Wiseman stressed VF has no desire to become a retailer and that retail sales will still represent a small portion of the company’s overall revenues over the next five years. Retail is expected to grow to 22 percent of revenues, or $2.4 billion, by 2012 and represented 15 percent of revenues last year. The company has 652 stores around the world, the majority of which are located in the Americas. The target over the next five years is to bring store totals up to 1,340. The majority of retail expansion will occur in the Americas, where the company plans to open 392 stores for the Seven For All Mankind, Lucy, Vans, Kipling and North Face brands. Another 115 Kipling, North Face and Wrangler and Lee stores are slated to open in Europe and Asia.
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Online sales also are expected to grow by $200 million.
“We are really underdeveloped in e-commerce across VF, especially in sportswear,” said Wiseman.
The company’s jeanswear coalition, home to Lee and Wrangler, long has been the dominant revenue generator and the backbone of the company. However, the outdoor and sportswear coalitions, along with the newly formed contemporary brand coalition, are likely to drive results for the foreseeable future. The outdoor coalition in particular, which includes The North Face, Napapijri, Vans, Kipling and Reef, has been on pace to emerge as the dominant division. Management expects to achieve $1.5 billion in organic growth in the outdoor segment over the next five years. The segment accounted for 33 percent of revenues last year and is expected to account for 39 percent by 2012. Product expansion will be a key element driving sales, with management citing plans to expand footwear in The North Face and Napapijri, as well as introducing Eastpak apparel and Kipling leather bags.
Management has high expectations for the new contemporary brands coalition, which is anchored by Seven For All Mankind. The segment accounted for only 2 percent of revenues last year but is expected to grow by $700 million by 2012 and account for 8 percent of overall revenues. Seven For All Mankind and Lucy, the only brands in this segment, offer some of their biggest potential on the retail side. Seven For All Mankind has only two stores currently and the company plans to open 98 more over the next five years. Lucy has 60 stores, primarily located on the West Coast. Management plans to double that number and believes the brand can eventually reach a store count of 300.
“We will dramatically increase the Lucy store base,” said Wiseman.
For the sportswear coalition, which includes John Varvatos and Nautica, management anticipates revenue growth of $300 million. This will represent a slight decrease in the percentage of overall revenues generated by the segment. Sportswear currently accounts for 10 percent of revenues and is expected to represent 9 percent by 2012.
Wiseman indicated that this year will likely be a crucial year in determining Nautica’s future. Rebuilding the brand has been a priority over the last year and those efforts are starting to gain traction, although a turnaround hasn’t been rapid.
“It’s clear to us that we still have more work to do,” said Wiseman of Nautica.
The John Varvatos business, on the other hand, has more than doubled since VF acquired it and grew by 40 percent in 2007. “This business has been a real win for us,” he said.
Because VF’s jeanswear coalition represents its largest and most mature business, management isn’t expecting the same sort of growth that it does from its other lifestyle brands. Jeanswear accounted for 41 percent of revenues last year and is expected to account for 33 percent in 2012.
“Over the next five years, this business will grow more modestly,” said Wiseman. “By far, here in the U.S., our top priority is to keep the continued growth of our big business in the mass and midtier channels,” he said. The Wrangler brand in particular has seen success, driven by marketing campaigns featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brett Favre.
Internationally, management is counting on growth in India and China. Jeanswear revenues are expected to grow $450 million by 2012, 60 percent of which is expected to occur in international markets.
VF won’t be abandoning its hunt for new brands, either. In its bid to reach $11 billion in revenues, management expects at least $900 million to come from acquisitions.
“By and large, our acquisitions have outperformed their original returns and provided tremendous returns for our shareholders,” said Wiseman.