VF’s Vans Unit to Add Athletic Shoes to Challenge Nike

VF Corp. (VFC)’s Vans skateboarding and stunt-biking shoe brand for teens plans to expand into athletic footwear to compete with Nike Inc. (NKE)

VF will start selling the Vans LXVI, named for Vans’ founding in 1966, at sporting-goods and athletic retailers including Foot Locker Inc. (FL) and Footaction in two weeks, Kevin Bailey, Vans’ president, said today in an interview at Bloomberg News headquarters in New York. The line is part of Vans’ push to boost sales by $1 billion to $2.2 billion in five years.

The shoe, starting at $70, is aimed at young consumers who “are more likely to be a teen walking around the streets in a pair of running shoes or basketball shoes,” said Bailey, 51. “This brings a new consumer into the Vans stable of footwear.”

The new release from VF, the world’s largest apparel maker, comes as sales of skating shoes in the U.S. declined 2 percent to $504 million in the 12 months through April, according to NPD Group. The overall U.S. athletic shoe market increased 0.7 percent to $25.9 billion in the same period, the Port Washington, New York-based group said.

Sales of athletic footwear have been growing as companies such as Nike, the world’s largest sneaker maker, introduce more premium technical shoes that also double as fashion accessories. Revenue in the running category has been surging as consumers buy brightly colored, lightweight shoes to wear more with jeans than for jogging.

‘The Same Shoes’

“People are buying shoes that have all kinds of technical attributes and then wearing them to the mall,” said Matt Powell, an analyst for SportsOneSource in Scarborough, Maine. In skateboarding footwear, “there really hasn’t been any newness injected into the industry. People have been making basically the same shoes over and over again, and each season they sell a little less well.”

Vans raised the heel of its new shoe to give it a more athletic feel and makes it without sewing and seams, Bailey said. The company also changed the checkerboard pattern on the bottom of its traditional Vans shoes to create a more flexible sole.

“We see a mainstreaming of action sports,” Bailey said. “Now it’s just another activity in their lives -- the basketball player who skateboards home or the soccer player who puts away the cleats at winter time and pulls out the snowboard.”

VF, which also owns Timberland and 7 For All Mankind, plans to sell the new shoes globally, including in 350 Foot Locker stores and 50 Footaction stores in the U.S.

VF advanced 1.2 percent to $139.75 at the close in New York. The shares have risen 10 percent this year.

Quadrupled Sales

Vans has about quadrupled sales since its 2004 acquisition by Greensboro, North Carolina-based VF. Vans is one of VF’s so- called “lifestyle brands,” along with North Face and Reef, that are meant appeal to consumers who want to dress like mountain climbers and surfers even when they’re not.

About half of the $1 billion in sales Vans expects to add will come from the Western Hemisphere as the brand works to draw more sales outside of the U.S. West Coast, the company said today in a statement.

About $350 million of the gain will come from Europe, where sales in constant dollars rose 55 percent last year, the company said.

“Brands like Vans are authentic,” Eric Wiseman, VF’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in an interview today. “You can go back to the early days of skateboarding in the ’60s. It’s not some model showing a product in an ad.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Burritt in Greensboro at cburritt@bloomberg.net; Lauren Coleman-Lochner in New York at llochner@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

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