By  on August 15, 2006

NEW YORK — Timberland is coming out of retail slumberland.

Despite the wide recognition of its brand, Timberland has only 21 regular-priced stores in the U.S., a situation that is about the change. The all-American footwear-driven and socially conscious company has developed a retail prototype, has hired PBS Realty Advisors LLC to find locations, and is ready to expand. Future stores will stock footwear, for which Timberland plans to step up its technological innovations, and a broader women's apparel assortment.

"We are actively and aggressively seeking new locations," John Trott, Timberland's senior director of store operations, said in a written response to WWD.

"Our objective is to allow the consumer to experience the full breadth of the Timberland brand. This is not your average shoe store, but rather an interactive shopping experience which showcases everything that we stand for — innovative, authentic outdoor-inspired product, environmentally responsible build-out [using reclaimed wood and other materials] and socially responsible messaging."

Trott said the prototype is approximately 1,200 square feet in size and will primarily focus on footwear, with a "dramatically increased" stockkeeping unit count. "In addition, we plan to evolve and expand the women's line." Trott declined to discuss details regarding the merchandise. Timberland targets the outdoor-inspired casual consumer.

"They are talking about national expansion, but we will start in the Northeast because Timberland has such brand recognition here," said Laura Pomerantz, principal of PBS Realty Advisors.

She said there are some "interesting possibilities in SoHo" in New York, but didn't specify any addresses she's working on. Timberland's sole Manhattan store is at 709 Madison Ave. by 63rd Street. Other stores in the metropolitan area are in Roosevelt Field, Long Island, and in Short Hills, N.J. The Tri-State area and New England are potentially key initial growth areas. "We are just in the process of identifying sites for them," Pomerantz said. "We're not close to lease signings, but we are working on it actively."

According to Pomerantz, Timberland assembled new teams for product design, marketing and store development, and has reengineered much of the product line in advance of the retail rollout, even developing a boot with a special lining that doesn't require socks.Currently, Timberland is primarily distributed through wholesaling and direct to consumers. The goal is to become a rounder multichannel brand.

In the U.S., aside from its regular-priced stores, Stratham, N.H.-based Timberland operates 57 outlets. There are also 117 stores and 28 outlets in Europe and Asia.

The $1.6 billion company had a strong, profitable 2005, but this year has been tough. Timberland reported a $13 million loss in the second quarter and declines in U.S. boots and kids' sales.

The company dates back to 1918 and a small Boston shoe firm where Timberland founder Nathan Swartz worked as a bootmaker. Years later, he bought out the company, which in 1955 became the Abington Shoe Company and was renamed Timberland in 1978 in recognition of a waterproof leather boot bearing the name that became highly popular. In the Eighties, Timberland evolved into a lifestyle brand.

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