President VF Asia Pacific VF Corporation
How have the fluctuations in Chinese economy affected your business?
China has been, and remains, a positive growth story for VF - even with its slower growth on a macro-economic scale. We are very focused on increasing productivity in China to overcome the inflationary impact on operating costs. Despite our rapid growth and strong brand positions in China, our market shares are still modest and we are intent on growing these.
Do you feel that the US and UK will dominate the apparel market forever?
I don’t believe that U.S. and U.K. companies completely dominate the market today. Countries such as Italy, Japan and France also exert considerable influence on apparel and fashion trends globally. We have learned that faster-growing and developing markets, including many of those in Asia, have not experienced the level of growth and influence on the global apparel market that many were predicting some years ago. But it takes quite some time for local brands to build capabilities and to establish positioning in a credible way throughout different geographies. I believe we will see more and more brands from markets outside the U.S. and U.K. that gradually evolve on a more global scale over time.
What are some of the marketing efforts that VF’s brands have used to connect with consumers in the Asia-Pac region? What’s been most effective?
We place an emphasis on understanding the markets in which we compete and having a deep understanding of the target consumer for each of our brands. We strive to stay true to our global brand “DNA,” but to adapt our execution to connect in a deep and relevant way in local markets. For example, we emphasize the unrivalled performance attributes of The North Face in China as we do throughout the world, but the context there puts more of a focus on community and social aspects of the outdoors rather than on individual accomplishments. Beyond brand positioning and activation, we aim to be a leader in digital marketing and the emerging integration of the online and off-line “omni channel” world. This evolution is rapidly changing consumer behavior and the expectations they have for brands that seek to engage with them.
How receptive are Asian markets to the fashion changes?
Asian markets are quite receptive to fashion changes and trends. We see little difference between the pace of adoption of new trends in these markets. In some respects, they are even more dynamic as they draw from greater cultural influences than some of their Western counterparts. Countries such as Korea and Taiwan have become very influential and complementary to the more traditional Western and Japanese sources of influence. It is dangerous to operate under the old assumption that Western markets establish the trends that are then followed by emerging markets. Trend adaptation evolves much more quickly now with the advent of the connected, digital world in which we live, and the trends are then often reinterpreted and customized locally.
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