Todd Spaletto grew up near Chicago, the son of a kindergarten teacher (mom) and a phy-ed instructor (dad) who from an early age instilled in him the value of physical fitness and a sense of wonder for the great outdoors. Camping trips to northern Wisconsin, including Lake Minocqua, as well as fishing and backpacking as he grew gave a backbone for a career that now sees Spaletto steering the course of one of the biggest outdoor brands on the market. I met up with Spaletto at The North Face’s new headquarters campus in Alameda, Calif., last week. —Stephen Regenold
Gear Junkie: When you were a kid what did you see yourself doing for a job?
Spaletto: As a teenager I had an epiphany about work and a career: You have to spend a lot of time, most of your waking hours, doing your job. I just knew I wanted to do something I loved and wanted to be passionate about the job.
What is your favorite part of the job now?
Getting outdoors and also getting out at retail and watching consumers interface with The North Face products.
Least favorite part?
Days when I have seven meetings in eight hours!
What does it take to lead a brand like The North Face?
Passion. Personal connections. Wanting to excel at what we do.
The North Face has a goal to grow its business substantially and reach $3billion in sales by 2015. How will this happen?
There are at least four lenses to look through, but to start we hope to increase our international sales. We want it to be 40% of our business. There are distribution strategy moves, including direct-to-consumer sales increases and getting our products in more [and different types of] stores. For example, we are now in more than 400 specialty running stores in the U.S., and it’s growing.
In what areas will the brand expand?
Activity expansion is one part. We now have products for outdoor, action sports, youth, performance, and training areas. For 45 years, we have been an outdoor brand, but now we are talking about way more than that.
How will footwear play a role in the growth?
Footwear is a big growth area. We hope to grow it by $500million in the next five years.
Put “$3billion in sales” in perspective for our readers. What would it mean if the company gets to this level?
For one thing, The North Face will hopefully grow to be known as more than a cold weather brand. We are a year-round active brand.
How does a giant brand “keep its soul,” so to speak?
Our growth is set to ensure our soul remains in tact. A big part of soul is corporate culture. Ours is strong. The geography of where the brand is also helps. We are near the ocean, mountains, and have access to almost anything in the outdoors very close in and around the Bay Area. That makes an impact.
What will The North Face look like in 10 years?
Hard to answer, but I hope we are one of the top brands in Europe and China. Again, I hope people see us as a year-round brand. We want to have an industry-leading footwear business. But beyond product, we want to see people getting outside around the world. I hope we can introduce consumers that love the brand to an active lifestyle outdoors, in the city, or wherever they are.
—Stephen Regenold is founder of GearJunkie. He wrote about running The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in the post “Hills, Mud, Rain define tough 50-Mile Ultra Race” last year.