By  on March 2, 1994

LONDON -- Wrangler is going back to its roots to boost its image and sales in Europe.

The American jeans brand is focusing on its Western heritage to re-establish itself in the European market, from which it effectively pulled out in the mid-Eighties when its parent, VF Corp., underwent a financial restructuring. It moved back into Europe about four years ago through a network of distributors.

Now Wrangler is becoming even more serious about its potential abroad. An example of the jeans company's renewed commitment to the European market was its decision in mid-1993 to establish a European headquarters in London and transfer one of its senior executives, Juan Munoz, from the U.S. to head its European merchandising and marketing.

It also has invested about $8 million on a European advertising campaign, including television, to raise awareness of the Wrangler brand.

The TV ad, which is now being shown in the U.K. and Germany, shows three men being put through the rigors of an American dude ranch by a woman. All four are in Wrangler jeans.

Barry Brennan, Wrangler's European business development director, says the objective is to advertise on TV in a third European market -- perhaps Italy -- in 1994.

However, the main marketing spending will continue to be at the local level throughout Europe next year, and there are no plans to go on such pan-European channels as MTV or CNN, he said.

"It's a question of trusting our local affiliates to build their businesses in a sustainable manner," Brennan said.

Facing a massive task in overcoming Levi's dominance of the European market, Munoz claims Wrangler has no intention of trying that.

Instead, the brand believes it and its sister company Lee can achieve strong double-digit growth in Europe by taking market share from the plethora of domestic jeans labels in each European country.

"The markets in Europe tend to be very fragmented, with a large number of brands," Munoz said. "We believe we can grow at the expense of the national brands."

The company's largest European markets currently are the U.K., where it has a 7-8 percent share; Germany, where it's number two, behind Levi's; and Ireland, where it is the brand leader, with 18-20 percent of the market. It also is having some success pushing into Eastern Europe; Wrangler is the brand leader in the former East Germany, with a 7-8 percent share, compared with Levi's 3 percent.

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