February 25, 2024

Louis Vuitton X Timberland Boot Collaboration Is The Kick Struggling VF Needs

Timberland boots have often appeared at Louis Vuitton outings, but now the two brands have made it official. Louis Vuitton has collaborated with VF Corporation’s Timberland brand in a collection of LV x Timberland boots and shoes emblazoned with the LV monogram.

Prices currently start at $1,150 and range up to $1,530 for LV’s unique take on the classic Timberland six-inch boot. Early sneak peaks promise more styles to follow.

Introduced in LV’s Fall/Winter 2024 Paris Fashion Week show by men’s creative director Pharrell Williams, Vogue France calls Timberland “the star shoes of Fashion Week.” They also got a showing by Wales Bonner, but the LV collaboration was the talk of the town.

Highsnobiety proclaimed LV Timbs “luxury workwear at its finest,” though it’s hard to imagine them showing up at the job site. Timberland’s standard fare is much more appropriate for that, like its classic yellow boot priced at $170 and the classic premium version at $198. The Timberland PRO steel toe boot is in the same affordable price range.

VF Needs A Leg Up

The brand’s newfound fame couldn’t come at a better time for owner VF Corporation. Revenues in the second quarter ended in September were down 4% at constant currency rates to $3 billion and through the first six months off 5%, from $5.3 billion to $5.2 billion.

A steep decline in America’s revenues also hampered results, dropping 13% in the first two quarters, from $3.1 billion to $2.8 billion.

VF’s results were boosted by 19% growth in its largest brand, The North Face, which did $1.1 billion in the third quarter alone, but its Vans, Dickies and Timberland brands were a drag.

Vans dropped 23% to $749 million; Dickies was off 9% to $171 million; and Timberland declined 10% to $489, despite growth in EMEA and APAC regions. Through the first six months of the year, Timberland brought in $743 million compared to $794 million last year, an 8% fall.

Lots To Turn Around

The second quarter earnings call was largely devoted to the troubles in the Vans brand, acquired in 2004 for around $400 million. Van’s president Kevin Bailey, who had a long history with Vans both before and after the acquisition, was moved over to lead VF’s business transformation initiative reporting to newly-appointed CEO Bracken Darrell who’s been on the job for seven months. While an external search is underway to find a replacement, Darrell promised to devote a big chunk of time to Vans.

As a result, there wasn’t much talk around Timberland’s short fall, and not a peep about the Louis Vuitton collaboration. CFO Matthew Puckett said the brand was suffering weakness in sell-through in “part of the Timberland business, particularly the six-inch boot,” adding that the higher-priced premium boot “has been slower.”

Timberland also experienced a decline in both its wholesale and direct-to-consumer business in the Americas. The company operates about 170 Timberland stores plus its Timberland.com website.

Overall, Darrell is keen to revive the wholesale business for all VF’s brands, with its ten largest wholesale partners accounting for about 15% of its total $11.6 billion revenues in 2023. Wholesale generated $6.4 billion in revenues and DTC $5.4 billion with licensing royalties adding $67 million.

“I think wholesale is super important in this business, and as much as I love DTC, and we all do, I think the pendulum for a lot of companies in this industry swung too far over,” he said. “There’s a reason why wholesale is in the marketplace and plays such an outsized role; it’s because consumers like to buy that way a lot of the time.”

LV’s Influence To Be Felt

The attention Timberland is receiving through the Louis Vuitton collaboration is sure to be a much needed boost for the brand in all channels, especially when curious shoppers get a look at LV’s prices. Direct sales of the LV Timbs’ line will be a mere rounding error on LVMH’s balance sheet and it will be a nice addition to VF’s royalty line.

The big win will accrue to the Timberland brand. Unlike the extremely popular Louis Vuitton x Supreme collaboration, which justified the $2.2 billion VF paid for the brand in 2020, its popularity was short lived. Revenues of Supreme declined nearly 7% from $562 million in 2022 to $523 million in 2023.

VF has been hampered building the Supreme brand because it operates under a different business model compared to its other brands, making it “subject to unique risks because of its focus on frequent, weekly and limited product drops through the direct-to-consumer channel,” according to the 2023 annual report. Supreme needed another strong collaboration to keep up momentum, but none have hit like the original with LV.

However, Timberland’s bread-and-butter business doesn’t depend on drops or limited editions. With hearty New England roots, being founded in 1952 and acquired by VF in 2011 for $2.3 billion, Timberland has a loyal following of outdoorsy folks and hardworking blue collar professionals. The Louis Vuitton endorsement will largely go unnoticed with this evergreen customer base.

But for all else, especially avid followers of fashion, it will put Timberland on the map. And while some will pay up for the LV logo on Timberlands, many more are likely to go for the authentic yellow boot at its much more affordable price tag.

VF will report third quarter earnings February 6, but by year end, VF should have some good news to report on Timberland at least.

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