On the outer side there is a relief of the Timberland symbol and a patch on the tongue and cords | 55 Stores, Culture and Collab: Timberland® Splitting and Surviving Headwinds

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Timberland… has been a disappointment for VFC since it was acquired in 2011. We believe that VFC should consider the sale of Timberland, though we know not who the buyer might be. Timberland’s 2010 revenue was $1.4B, and we estimate it’s FY24 revenue will be ~$1.6B. VFC bought Timberland for $2.3B. – Sam Poser, WTCO Picture Source: Timberland® | Free Shipping With Membership

Timberland celebrated 50 years in 2023. The year should have spawned a considerable amount of interest in the brand. 2023 was also the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop. Timbs and Hip-Hop share the golden age and there is almost a form of symbiosis when reflecting on the explosive era of Hip-Hop which turned the industry into a cash cow for record labels.

Timberland’s growth was an incidental aspect as East Coast Hip-Hop dominated the charts. Fancy of Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep and Notorious B.I.G. were hung across record and cd shops, dorms and bedrooms. Groups like Das EFX and M.O.P. made the 6-inch boot such a staple part of the uniform, Timberland gained culture by default.


The thing about Hip-Hop is how it evolves, especially as fashion. In the 70s the music had a punk aesthetic. In the 80s basketball sneakers, Puma and adidas, led the movement. Timbs were adopted in the 90s and sneakers gained their own space via cross training and Michael Jordan, but the combination of Hip-Hop and basketball showed how the fashion would become more influenced by hoop culture and this would define the 2000s. Today the music is controlled by clear channel and Southern Hip-Hop where fashion around the culture is inspired luxury.

Timberland stayed in the golden age for too long. The six-inch boot became the focus, and a bit of heritage was lost along the way. This heritage had little to do with Hip-Hop. There was a brown shoe and work heritage which gave Timberland a casual and work customer who supported the brand, but Timberland’s archive of classic footwear hasn’t been utilized to regain those consumers. Browse the website and the imagery looks like what is seen throughout this post.

As culture shifted leaving Timbs and East Coast Hip-Hop as a retro, more niche category, And1 and Nike Basketball moved sneaker culture and brown shoe business was pushed by casual athletic growth. Timberland found itself mired in colorful 6-inch boots at urban retail. This worked for a moment but entering into the 2010s (when VF Corporation acquired Timberland) the brand has attempted to recapture an urban flame best suited as seasonal and with inconsistent weather patterns, advancements in sneaker design to create more outdoor terrain and weather readiness, Timberland’s love of the collab appears to have stopped any forward movement.


As the 50th anniversary of the brand collided with the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop, it only seemed right that the company would lead the charge via marketing and product in inspiring the generation who made Hip-Hop synonymous with culture. Instead, the brand led with a Future73 effort, a series of limited release collaborations with fashion industry designers and they released a purple Hip-Hop royalty themed boot, a solid concept, but was more of a novelty item than a wearable product which would reignite interest by both old and new fans of Timberland culture.


Outdoor has been jacket by Gore-tex and trail running. This led to sneaker companies generating trail ready shoes which performed as hiking products that weren’t as heavy as a Timb and was just as waterproof at the same cost. Gorpcore and utilitarian fashion was inspired by sneaker culture which led to a reduction in the potential fan for Timberland. Outdoor fashion enthusiasts went with Salomon on foot and ArcTeryx for apparel, and with AcrTeryx now introducing sneakers Timberland could find itself pushed even farther to the edge.

With Culture disrupted by sneakers and trail sneakers, Timberland’s focus on colorful urban boots left a backdoor open to their PRO division and outdoor casual segment. Timberland lost workwear to Carhartt, and boot sales moved to inexpensive alternatives which could be purchased at Wal-Mart. It didn’t help that popular YouTube stations like Rose Anvil generated millions of views declaring that the classic 6-inch was a bad product (see above).



The win for Timberland sits in connecting every aspect of their business in a manner which would make the brand viable across categories: outdoor, workwear, Gorpcore, and culture. However, when a company was purchased for $2 billion and is only generating $1 billion, delivering what worked in the past becomes a default solution, when it’s a reset and restraint which will change the direction of Timberland’s trends.

The title of this post is 55 Stores, Culture and Collab. The reason for this is Timberland’s excitement about the Louis Vuitton Fashion Show. The brand shared the Pharrell fashion moment as brand accretive when the reality is the LV Boot is simply a more elevated aspect of collaboration. Timberland’s focus on niche Hip-Hop inspired culture and collabs has been leaned on too heavily as a marketing and branding tool. The LV Timb won’t inspire interest any more than the Future73 led to greater sales across the board. Culture and Collab are red herrings for Timberland because they amplify the creator vs the brand.

Timberland is a legacy company with incredible products in the catalog, but with 55 doors the brand can’t reach enough consumers to recapture margins. This creates a reliance on wholesale at mainstream sneaker channels where the 6 inch boot no longer lands. Those mainstream sneaker channels are also dominated by lightweight, trendy options. That consumer is more likely to buy Sherpa Crocs or UGGs than a pair of Timbs. Even in specialty running and outdoor stores the walk-in displays are led by Hoka trail sneakers.

What is the solution here? Instead of offering a detailed breakdown of direction here are a few items of association to consider.

  1. The best workwear brand that has crossed over to fashion is?
  2. The best outdoor brand which also shares the utilitarian style movement is led by?
  3. Trail running is dominated by?
  4. On the outer side there is a relief of the Timberland symbol and a patch on the tongue and cords?
  5. Cold weather boots at mainstream is controlled by?
  6. Comfort and Recovery is dominated by which brand?

These questions deliver a segue into brown Timberland’s issues. My quick answers to each are: Carhartt, Salomon, Hoka, Nike ACG, UGGs, Birkenstock. Timberland has products to fill all of these categories, but the brand has become an afterthought and as every brand seeks to capture a share of the segments they operate in, cool pics and dope collabs do very little to capture a consumer with more options than ever.

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