VF Corporation, the owner of most of the nationally known denim companies, first acquired Lee Jeans in 1969, when it was “cool” to own a denims company. VF then acquired Wrangler, Rustler and JanSport in 1986.
This is the ordinary story, unfortunately, of a corporation (also current owners of North Face, Eagle Creek, Vans, Timberland, and Dickies) that “picks up” acquisitions just for the fun of it and without much thought of actually maximizing the brands – expecting, instead, that the brands will carry themselves, to the benefit of the company. The WSJ recently reported that VF is exploring “strategic options” for its denim business (read that as “selling them off”) because “sales of Wrangler Jeans and Lee jeans have slowed in recent years as jeans have fallen out of favor with consumers who instead opt for yoga pants or premium brands.” That is the result of VF Corporation not pushing the brands that they’ve amassed. The places where I typically shop (Neiman’s, Nordstrom, for example) haven’t displayed Wranglers and Lees in recent merchandising – but, they could. Neiman’s certainly could – it’s a Texas-based company, after-all, and, if approached appropriately, would likely have been amenable to featuring these cool jeans brands matched up with some of their nice silk blouses. What could be better for the denims brands? People are wearing yoga pants because that’s what has been thrust at them, as in, merchandised relentlessly. Thus, they think it’s “cool” to do so. If Neiman’s or Nordie’s were doing the same relentless merchandising for Wrangler or Lee’s, these, too, would be seen as “cool.” It’s shameful for a large corporation to suck up viable brands and then ignore them without any real merchandising and advertising support to keep the brands alive. It happens all too often and it’s disgusting to see good, “Americana” brands be sent to the trash heap because a company hasn’t had the drive and ambition to maximize them.