FUTURE73, A Firm Foothold and Overcoming Inventory Issues | Could Timberland be VF Corp’s Light in 23?

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While Merrell remains my go to boot company, Timberland could creep up into my must have for fashion in 2023. I could definitely resort to 90s Timbs in the summer aesthetics with the pending drops arriving this year as the company celebrates 50 years at the most perfect time for the brand. Timberland became synonymous with Hip-Hop culture which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. To be in sync with one of the most important cultural movements in history is a branding opportunity unlike anything I’ve witnessed in fashion at any point except maybe Dapper Dan creating leather suits from luxury brand materials in the 80s when rap videos began to move across the country via BET. Why would I mention Merrell here in a discussion on Timberland?

I’ve been high on Merrell since the brand began supporting endeavors by people from diverse backgrounds. Merrell doesn’t have any presence in the Black community, but the company supports African-American disabled veterans and promotes diversity in the outdoors. In the last five years, as a family, we’ve purchased at least 11 pairs of Merrell. My wife wears hers for fashion. I wear mine on trail jogs and hiking. I have two pair I have incorporated into my casual wear, but they aren’t heavy in my rotation. I Kith Clarks and Wallabees, with a Brandblack that I throw on for boot styled fashion, but I don’t have any Timbs right now.

I’m discussing this because in college, even living in sunny San Diego, I had so many Timbs I would give them to my teammates. One of my roommates owned any Timbs he saw on members of Wu-Tang and while Chuck Taylors, Cortez and khakis dominated most streetwear in San Diego, there was an underground Hip-Hop circuit led by a crew named Masters of the Universe (a collection of San Diego emcees that formed to be like our version of Wu – shoutout Orko, Eklipse and JahSun) there was a heavy backpack energy that allowed for Timberlands to kind of not be given a side-eye when we were at Mission Beach with Jorts (jean shorts) and tees or at Hip-Hop and poetry functions when I didn’t have basketball practice. As the years have passed, Timberland hasn’t been in my rotation. I don’t own a pair. Even in the last few years as 90s retro became popular again, I picked up WuWear and Champion gear, but passed on buying Timbs.

My distance from the brand is generated from the fact that the in-store experience of where Timbs are carried is not very good and Timberland simply doesn’t speak to the generation that made the brand a status symbol and a part of the culture. Timberland, in my head, stayed too long in the area where they delivered Dipset pink and multicolored Timbs. I kind of remember that phase and place the brand in that era. Hip-Hop and sneaker culture has matured. Hip-Hop is 50 years old. The recent Grammy performance highlighting the music garnered incredible coverage and reignited nostalgia, but the irony was Timberland wasn’t as prominent as one would have expected.  Which is strange when Gorpcore is now a prominent aspect of fashion, but the Hip-Hop community doesn’t know what that is and doesn’t care. It could be that there is a lingering taste of appropriation around Timberland. I wrote this post in 2020:

30 Years of Co-Opting, Ignorance and Growth | How Timberland Pimped Hip-Hop to a Billion Dollars

I eventually followed it up with evidence that Timberland has been working on issues around diversity, but this sentiment of appropriation is difficult to escape when Timberland finds itself in a similar position to any brand not named Nike. Timberland, when it’s not affiliated with outdoor is sold in urban accounts. When retail for sneakers and boots isn’t positioned for a more elevated experience, entire demographics are overlooked. Timberland is a part of sneaker culture because of its connection to Hip-Hop, but the retail experience for sneaker and urban culture is trapped in a loop of antiquated visual merchandising and store experiences lacking in delivering a better experience. A lot of consumers aren’t fond of shopping experiences at sneaker retail and those consumers haven’t been introduced to stores like REI. This has left the consumer with the most disposable income irritated by in-store experiences and has led to that demographic ramping up their online shopping experiences. That demographic, Sandali TIMBERLAND London Vibe 3 Bands TB0A29Y7040 Silver Full Grain just so happens to coincide with the Hip-Hop generation. “In 2021, the disposable income of a household led by a Millennial in the United States was 84,563 U.S. dollars per year. Households led by someone born in Generation X, however, had a disposable income of around 102,512 U.S. dollars in 2021.”


The Shifting Demographics of “Sneakerhead” Culture

I’ve written consistently about how overlooked the original sneaker culture generation is. I’ve discussed the problems associated with this in detail. Those issues are rearing their heads in a slowdown across the board in sneaker sales, which shapes Timberland because of where the boots are carried. Timbs are considered a part of sneaker culture and the culture and retail experience undercuts where and how I believe Timberland should presented at retail. I placed a discussion on Jordans and the shifting demographics of sneaker culture exceeding. There continues to be a misconception about the age of the consumer buying kicks. Because this information is so readily accepted and there are guardians to youth culture, brands fail to check on the 30–50-year-old market. That’s a broad spectrum, but after years of e-commerce on the third-party side of the industry, I’ve found a gigantic hole in sneaker retail that has yet to be covered, but it seems that Timberland could be more capable of filling that need than any other brand as Hip-Hop turns 50. Timberland has yet to introduce a concept for this moment, but the company has delivered a couple of striking campaigns showing their increased actions in diversity with the short film ” A Firm Foothold” and rolling out a 50th anniversary celebration named FUTURE73.

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Timberland Quietly Keeps Commitment to Support Black Designers with CNSTNT/DVLPMNT Partnership

Both FUTURE73 and A Firm Foothold offer insight into a brand that has the potential to standout more than its peers under the VF Corporation umbrella. The collections being released for the 50th anniversary look incredible. The six collaborators have delivered options which will drop throughout the year, but none of the releases have a connection rooted in Hip-Hop. A Firm Foothold, featuring the CNSNT DVLPMNT (shown in the link above) program by Chris Dixon, should be fleshed out beyond youth education for 2023 and expanded into an educational component. FUTURE73 should also be connected to artists. It isn’t my job to explain fully how Timberland should be leading VF Corp into 2023, but it’s my goal to introduce the discussion. In a recent note from analyst Sam Poser, VF Corp’s inventory issues were an important issue to consider. I’m adding to his analysis that Timberland’s retail distribution strategy requires an adjustment. The natural alignment and timeliness offer a compelling chance for Timberland to be a shining light in 2023 although projections for the first half of the fiscal year will be difficult.

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