VF Brendan Sullivan WWD Digital Forum

VF Corp.’s bread and butter might be its wholesale business, but the powerhouse apparel company also has 16 brands with e-commerce sites that already drive about $528 million of the company’s $12.4 billion in sales — and are looking to grow by being smart, coordinated (and a little lucky).

Brendan Sullivan, vice president of direct-to-consumer at VF Corp., noted that of those 16 brands, 10 also have their own stores, opening opportunities for the company to tie together the full shopping experience.

“For us, it’s really about connecting the dots and what are really the threads that help connect these different channels,” Sullivan said. “The consumer is shopping multiple venues. It’s not an ‘either/or’ it’s really the power of ‘and.’

“You’ve got to show up and have your game in all channels,” he said. “And you’ve got to have a very similar experience for the consumer, because they’re not finding a distinction anymore [in where they shop].”

To that end, VF has established a Silicon Valley, Calif.-based unit that seeks to keep the merchants on focus by keeping the brands current and leaning in on the technology front.

“We feel this way’s the right approach to take some of the pressure off our brands and take the worry away from the back end, but have them do what they do best, which is deliver great experiences and product on the front end,” he said.

Delivering great experiences today requires what amounts to a little logistical wizardry, even for a well-funded giant.

“We need to make sure we get the right stuff into the right place at the right time,” Sullivan said. “Really easy to say, hard to do. But we’re putting in some different processes and for us at VF this is a hard journey, because we are used to thinking about things in truckloads and pallets. Now we have to think about how to edit assortments and ship it not only to our stores and replenish our stores, but ship it to consumers. We’re committed to that evolution.”

Bringing all of that together, requires a little dance and a lot of preparation.

Lightning struck when the Vans brand — VF’s largest retail business with 600 stores — found a sudden boost in exposure with the “Damn Daniel” viral video, in which a high school student shows a variety of his friend Daniel’s outfits, finally noting, “Damn Daniel, back at it again with the white Vans.”

The video sparked memes, a rap song, TV appearances and more — and Vans was ready to capitalize.

“We were lucky, but we were good [as well] because we saw this phenomena happen about six months in advance where we were selling out of white Vans,” Sullivan said. “Vans put together a hit team as soon as this happened and we changed the landing page so…you saw the white product. The stores were merchandised differently.” (The brand also gave Daniel and his friend, Josh, a lifetime supply of Vans.)

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