(Image via Vans/Footwear News).

Vans Sneaker culture is as diverse as streetwear, surf culture and skate culture. While contributing to many touch points amongst fashion and sport, Vans’ DNA is inherently unpretentious and has always been the sneaker of choice for misfits, outcasts, and rebels alike.

A new interview was conducted with Footwear NewsVans Global Brand President Kevin Bailey Vans is now in a difficult position. Sales have fallen and the brand’s image has been eroded.

Last month, Vans’ parent company, VF Corp., who also backs heavy-hitters like Supreme, Timberland, Dickies, and North Face, reported that Vans sales declined in Q3 2023, earning $926.9 million, which is a 13% decline from the year prior.

VF Corp also expects Vans revenue to decline by high single digits in constant dollars, compared to the previous outlook of down mid-single digits.

Vans is such a well-known brand, that it’s easy to see the decline in sales. This has prompted the brand to take immediate action.

“The brand is not broken,” Bailey told Footwear News. “Everybody trips up once in a while. Skateboarders can fall and break their knees. It’s what it is. Are we hitting a bump on the road? Yes. How much of all this was our fault? Nearly all of it.”

Bailey began his career with Vans in 2002. He has seen many highs as well as lows, despite a short tenure. Bailey returned to Vans in April 2022 almost one year ago, but circumstances may have been more difficult than he expected.

While the road ahead seems long, Bailey seems confident about Vans’ approach to remedy its recent shortcomings. Bailey thinks Vans has become too dependent and stagnant on certain styles, among other things.

“Our consumer said we want more style and versatility, but we kept pumping out Classics,” Bailey told Footwear News. “When I wasn’t involved with Vans, I saw how much we spent on product development dwindle to places where no one spends that little.”

Bailey also feels that Vans’ brand image has taken a hit and lost its rebel-yell that Vans first stepped on the scene with in 1966.

We let ourselves become too comfortable. We didn’t maintain our edge. We lost our rebelliousness and that rebellious nature that is Vans. That ‘eff you’ attitude that is Vans. We somehow got watered-down in the process.

Kevin Bailey, Vans Global Brands President

Vans’ recent safety-first approach has impacted more than just its creativity and brand image, but across all its different channels of distribution.

Bailey kept revealing his frustrations and telling Footwear News, “When [chief product and merchandising officer] Marissa [Pardini] I agreed to return and assist [in December 2022], the look in her eyes two weeks in was pretty similar to the look in my eyes, like, ‘What the heck happened here? How did we lose some practices? How did we lose certain disciplines? How is it that we are so disoriented? How is our execution this poor?’ The fact that we’re still there is not a surprise to me.”

Vans will celebrate its 57th anniversary in 2023. They will spend the next year getting back to their roots and working to regain prominence within the sneaker market.

Bailey and his team identified their problems and devised a plan of attack, but Bailey stresses patience.

“The time it takes to get well is serious,” said Bailey. “Turnarounds don’t happen overnight. It’s not what public companies want to hear, generally.”

He continued saying, “I’m convinced we have the right elements in play to change the way we show up by the second half of this year. But we’re not going to be all the way to where we want it to be. We’re still going through a tough cycle.”

Vans is in great hands going forward. Bailey will be leading trusted new hires in executive space: Marissa Pardini will be Chief Product and Merchandising officer, Sarah Kleinman will serve as Vice President and GM of global Digital, and Bobby Goodwin will serve as Vice President of DTC merchandising in the Americas.

The Vans team plans to get more selective with SKUs during the upcoming year and will be getting rid of models that aren’t flying off the shelves.

“Retail stores will have 30% to 40% fewer SKUs in the fall on the footwear wall, which will allow for a greater focus and greater understanding of the stories we’re telling,” Bailey said. “That drove an 11% increase in sales when we did a test in one store, just by taking models off the wall.”

Additionally, the team will place emphasis on storytelling. This is usually expressed through written words. Vault by Vans Collabs and collections like the latest Joe Freshgoods And Deaton Chris Anthony packs.

Vans hopes to raise awareness about new models and series such as the MTE offerings The Vans UltraRange product lineHowever, they have not yet caught on with consumers. Footwear News According to reports, awareness of Vans UltraRange products was just 10% among all consumers, and less than 30% among brand loyalists.

Retail plays a major part in Vans’ success and will also be receiving an overhaul all its own. Vans will be redesigning its stores which Bailey feels have lost their appeal. The new changes will focus on a modern approach to arranging the offers by lifestyle rather than gender.

“Today, because our footwear and apparel teams haven’t worked well in the past, they don’t even feel like the same spaces on some level. We also have the men’s side and women’s side. We’re talking more about style fluidity. Our young consumers dress the way they want to dress, that’s how they express themselves,” Bailey explained. “If you go to our website today and look at a men’s pant and go through the images, you’re going to find an image of a woman wearing the men’s pant styled out. Why not? Consumers are doing that.”

He continued, “So why do we have a men’s and women’s side of the store? We couldn’t think in terms of consumer categories teams. We could not have a pro-skate section with the skate shop and pro-skate shoes and apparel. Why couldn’t our lifestyle section have our core Classics and a bunch of basic tees and hoodies?”

Vans hopes to reconnect with its customer and get to know them better.

“[That] work has just kicked off,” said Bailey. “It’s a study, a deep understanding of our consumers across demographics, geographies, activities, lifestyles.”

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