If the acquisition of the outdoor industry’s largest retail show last year didn’t cement Denver’s reputation for attracting major outdoor brands, today it officially entered the big league. The North Face and affiliate companies are moving to town.
Top: Denver’s downtown skyline in front of the Front Range; photo credit – Keith
VF Corporation is relocating to Denver in spring 2019. VF is one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear, and accessories companies. And it’s the holding company for juggernaut The North Face, along with Smartwool, Altra, and others.
“Co-locating these brands along with select leaders at a shared headquarters in metro Denver will enable greater cross-brand collaboration, idea incubation, talent exchanges and development, and greater connections to our outdoor and active consumer lifestyles,” VF Senior Director of Communications Craig Hodges told GearJunkie.
Colorado offered $27 million in tax incentives to entice VF to relocate its headquarters to Denver. It’s the second-largest package in the state’s history.
Steve Rendle — VF’s chairman, president, and CEO — called Colorado unrivaled in its outdoor heritage, culture, and lifestyle. He vowed in a press release that VF would give something back.
“We are grateful to Colorado for the job growth tax credits that represent a long-term commitment to our company and we want to make a long-term commitment to the people of Colorado. For every dollar of job growth tax credit that we receive and use, we will match that dollar in a donation to the VF Foundation and designate those funds to support the charitable interests of the citizens of Colorado.”
Outdoor Brands Coming to Colorado
VF Corp. comprises numerous brands, not all of which will relocate. The brands coming to Denver include The North Face, JanSport, Smartwool, Eagle Creek, and Altra. The company also recently acquired apparel brand Icebreaker, though it was not listed among the brands to be re-headquartered in Denver.
The move will bring approximately 800 high-paying jobs to the Denver metro area, according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. These include brand leaders, the global leadership team, and other corporate positions.
The transition of all jobs under these brands to the Denver metro area could take up to two years. VF will also open two global innovation centers in Denver. One will serve as a digital lab, the other a technical fabric development facility.
Hodges confirmed that VF-owned sock and apparel maker Smartwool, which has been based in Steamboat Springs, Colo., since its founding 25 years ago, will move to Denver. (Smartwool manufactures socks in mills in North Carolina and Tennessee.)
That announcement is already hitting home among a tight-knit staff of 95 spread between the world-renowned ski town and a satellite office in Boulder, Colo.
“We are just finding out about this and communicating it to our employees. We’re very saddened to be leaving Steamboat … We are engrained in the community, and there will be ripple effects,” said Jen McLaren, Smartwool’s president.
“With that said, moving into a VF complex in Denver will bring us tremendous benefits,” she added. “We will also be able to collaborate with our sister brands more than we ever have. Not to mention Denver is quickly becoming a hotspot within the outdoor industry.”
VF Corporation did not immediately respond to a request regarding the effect the move will have on other brands’ current headquarters. Altra Running is currently based in Logan, Utah. JanSport is headquartered in Seattle, Wash. The North Face is based in Alameda, Calif., and Eagle Creek is in Indianapolis.
New Two-Company Structure Elevates Active Brands
In tandem with news of its relocation, VF also announced plans to split into two independent, publicly traded companies. VF Corp will oversee all apparel and footwear brands including Dickie’s Workwear, Vans, and Timberland. VF Corp’s outdoor and activewear brands grew 25 percent in the last quarter and represent $11 billion in annual revenue.
Meanwhile, a yet-unnamed company based in North Carolina will take on VF’s denim brands Lee and Wrangler as well as its outlet businesses.
In a news release, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said VF’s decision “thrills” the state. “VF’s move underscores the critical driver that the outdoor recreation industry plays in our economy where business meets lifestyle,” he said.