SNEWS® has learned that Timberland has begun notifying distributors and retailers around the globe of its intention to discontinue the production of GoLite footwear and Mion footwear beginning with the fall 2008 season.
"As a company, the decision was made to concentrate on the Timberland brand and the core of our product line," Lindsey Hayes, vice president of global sales for Timberland Outdoor Group, told SNEWS®, when we reached her in Denmark. "We began evaluating our various brands and both GoLite and Mion stood out as too complex and were diverting our focus from our core business."
Hayes told us while Timberland has made the decision to begin "winding down" Mion and GoLite footwear it is by no means abandoning the brands suddenly.
"We are fully committed to supporting retailers through spring 2008 and we have communicated this message to our agency groups," said Hayes. "Product has been shipped through spring 2008, and we are fully supporting it through event and consumer-facing marketing programs and we are supporting tech rep visits to stores to continue to train store staff in the sale of the product."
Timberland she said remains fully committed to its other brands, SmartWool , IPATH and Howies, we were told, since each one operates as an independent business unit requiring less support.
The decision regarding GoLite footwear in no way affects GoLite as a company, Demetri Coupounas, president of GoLite, told SNEWS®. "We respect Timberland's decision and its need to focus on the business priorities they have set themselves. However, it is important to note that their decision regarding discontinuing footwear in no way affects what we do from the ankle up.
"We are working closely with Timberland to ensure the GoLite brand, in its totality, does right by the many fine dealers who have sold GoLite from the ankle down and will continue to sell GoLite from the ankle up," added Coupounas.
SNEWS® View: The news that Timberland is effectively shutting down operations for both Mion and GoLite footwear is certainly disappointing, but isn't that surprising since the company has been unsuccessfully trying to shop both brands to prospective buyers for months now -- in large part, we believe, to focus its investments and expenditures in light of its recent and financial challenges. Footwear is just not a bright spot at this point -- at least for Timberland. The good news is that apparel and accessory sales, driven by SmartWool, continue to climb. Consider that in the financial report for the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2007, sales of footwear, which make up the bulk of the company's overall revenue, fell 14 percent to $304.4 million mainly from lower sales of boots and kids' footwear. Apparel and accessories sales rose about 3 percent to $133.5 million, driven by double-digit growth of SmartWool socks and apparel as well as benefits from foreign exchange rates.
Since February 2008, the company has announced it is licensing its U.S. apparel business, has begun closing a number of underperforming retail stores, and reorganized its U.S. sales and global product groups. The Mion and GoLite decision is just one more bit of cost-savings in a bid to shave millions from the expense side of the ledger and put the focus of all within the Timberland team on getting Timberland as a brand marching forward, rather than stumbling backward.
SNEWS® would suspect that we have not seen the last of GoLite technologies or Mion technologies by any stretch of the imagination. While the Mion and GoLite footwear brands might be going away, the direction Timberland has been taking in the last year of putting more strength and value in the tree logo has already seen Mion features showing up in Timberland urban footwear.
It is our bet that at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, we'll see a revamped Timberland focus on outdoor that is unified, not segmented as the company had with the multi-tier brand approach. While both Mion and GoLite teams put out some very strong designs and innovations, their brand existence basically meant the Timberland design team could not touch trail running or performance sandals. Now, that barrier to design under the tree logo has been removed. What remains to be seen is if retailers will embrace the on-again-off-again Timberland approach to design and marketing when it comes to the outdoor market. It is hard to commit your dollar support as a retailer when you have no idea how long the brand is going to be staying with an idea or concept in the first place.
The most painful part of any change such as this is the human cost. While Timberland told us it is trying to find positions for as many affected folks as possible, Bill Dodge, general manager for GoLite footwear and Erik Burbank, general manager for Mion, are both now on the market. To contact Dodge, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To reach Burbank, give him a ring at 435-649-1831.