NEW YORK — Gordon Harton, president of Lee Jeans and a 35-year veteran of VF Corp., announced his retirement, effective April 1.
Harton’s tenure at VF began in 1971 and included more than 15 years with Wrangler. He joined the Lee brand in 1993, serving as vice president of sales and consumer marketing before being named president in 1999.
“Leading the Lee business has been a great experience and I know I leave the brand in good hands,” Harton said in a statement.
The retirement of Harton, 55, comes as VF seeks to reinvigorate the brand and reclaim market share, particularly in women’s. During the company’s analyst meeting in December, Angelo LaGrega, president of VF Jeanswear, noted that sales for the jeanswear division had fallen about $60 million between 2003 and 2005. Jeanswear sales fell marginally in 2004 to $2.66 billion. LaGrega attributed the decline in its overall jeans business to the Sears-Kmart merger, as well as increased competition from the introduction of the Levi’s Signature brand into the mass channel.
Repositioning Lee is a major focus moving forward and fit will be a key aspect of forthcoming marketing campaigns. The company plans to more aggressively target mid-tier stores such as J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and Goody’s.
“The good news is that over the past six to 12 months, Gordon and his team have put together a platform of things to relaunch and revitalize the brand,” LaGrega said in an interview Friday. “Lee’s not going to have 20 percent growth tomorrow, but it’s definitely on the right track.”
A search for his replacement has begun and includes internal and external candidates, LaGrega said.