The movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High put Vans sneakers on the map, but the company owes its current popularity to the fashion sense of extreme-sports enthusiasts who weren't even born then. Vans designs and sells footwear and apparel for casual wear and for use in activities such as skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, bicycle motocross (BMX), and motocross. Vans merchandise is sold in the US by national chain stores and in skate, surf, and specialty shops in North America, Europe, and Asia. Vans operates about 270 stores in the western US and in Europe. As part of its marketing strategy, Vans backs bands through music festivals. The company is owned by V.F. Corporation.
After V.F. bought Vans for about $400 million, the company made it part of its outdoor and action sports business, where Vans has since become V.F.'s star performer alongside other brands such as sportswear apparel maker North Face. Despite sales declines for US manufacturers during the economic downturn, Vans has helped V.F. grow its revenue. Extending its reach to China in 2008, the footwear firm is one of its parent's most popular brands worldwide. Indeed, sales for Vans rose 20% in fiscal 2011 vs. 2010, thanks to growth in domestic and international markets. The shoe maker attributes the boost to new store openings, comparable store sales growth, and an expanded e-commerce business. To maintain its momentum in fiscal 2012, V.F. plans to invest about $85 million in retail capital investments for Vans, as well as for North Face and upscale jeans maker 7 For All Mankind.
Internationally, Vans has begun to tap the huge market in China, where it boasts about half a dozen in-store shops in department stores in Beijing and Shanghai, and its own Vans store in Shanghai. To this end, Vans aims to be a more than $1 billion company by 2013. Elsewhere, the retailer operates an outlet on Carnaby Street in London as its flagship retail store in Europe. In Mexico, where Vans has marketed its products through a 50%-owned joint venture, the manufacturer in 2010 took full ownership -- and control of its product in the country -- by purchasing the remaining interest in the joint venture.
While the company is known for its footwear, it is working to grow the Vans apparel business and its market share among female customers. Launching a Hello Kitty line of Vans has helped to pique the interest of women. As a way to market itself nationwide, its parent company owns 70% of the Vans Warped Tour, a music festival that showcases some 40 punk rock bands that perform in more than 40 North American cities each summer. The company had operated about 10 huge indoor skate parks (some with BMX tracks), but closed all but a couple of those parks, primarily because of competition from public skate parks. – less