The President of The North Face doesn’t like segmenting his brands’ consumers.
“It’s the same customer playing in different environments,” Todd Spaletto told SGB. “These hardcore athletes aren’t less core because they step into an urban environment.”
In other words, The North Face is taking a broader perspective — still delivering hardcore gear for when people hit the mountains, but then carrying those same performance and technology stories into lines for fitness and training in the city, or even a night out.
We sat down with Spaletto to see how the industry is adjusting to an evolving active lifestyle landscape.
How do you see the definition of outdoor changing? The line between the outdoor and active markets is blurring. We’re seeing consumers’ interest in the outdoors growing exponentially. More people are getting outdoors year round, but their activities are different. This is where the blur between outdoors and active takes place. It’s now less about the three week backpacking trip and more about active, yet social moments in an authentic outdoor environment.
How does The North Face address those changes without losing its core outdoor credibility? The North Face brand purpose is to inspire a life of exploration. We have always sought to inspire and encourage consumers to get outdoors through our products and local programs. Our core consumer leads a very active lifestyle and appreciates technical products whether for training for their goal, summiting the local mountain, or wearing our product in their day-to-day life.
To ensure we are remaining authentic, we take this deep understanding of our customer and connect it with our heritage of making the most technical product possible. The end result is innovative products that are appropriate for both use cases. Take for example, ThermoBall, which is technically authentic — and is now available in more than 20 colors.
No doubt, the outdoor lifestyle category has boomed at retail. How can brands and retailers better deal with the fast-changing trends that fashion brings with it? We have been — and always will be — dedicated to providing the highest quality product. Our core consumer cares about the way a product fits and looks, so we ensure it not only performs at the highest level in activity, but also looks and feels good. Our consistent focus is on delivering exactly that — products that perform at the highest level while simultaneously keeping innovation, style and fit top of mind.
Today’s outdoor consumers increasingly want their brands to reflect their environmental and social values. How has The North Face provided greater transparency in these areas? The North Face is built on a love of exploring and protecting the outdoors, so making products responsibly is a priority for us. We absolutely believe that it is important for the industry to help conserve land and promote the outdoors in countries around the world… and we know our customers feel the same way.
The North Face has been involved in conservation since the brand’s inception and engages people in outdoor activities through the Explore Fund, our grant program for nonprofits that get people outdoors. We focus on getting people outdoors, because we know once they experience and appreciate it, they will be inspired to care for the wild places we love.
The North Face cofounded The Conservation Alliance in 1989 and continues our strong commitment to conservation to this day. Alliance funds have played a key role in protecting rivers, trails, wildlands and climbing areas. Over the past couple years, we’ve partnered with the Department of the Interior and the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) to help care for our nation’s public lands. The 21CSC employs youth and returning veterans and has signature programs across the country for people to get outdoors in meaningful ways.
We are always working to improve social and environmental support for the manufacturing companies making our products. Through our focus with Bluesign, which began in 2008, we have saved more than 828 million gallons of water, 49 million kilowatt-hours of energy and 6.1 million pounds of chemicals across the globe, including in the countries where our products are made.
Regarding transparency, each year we share information around our operations, responsible sourcing and manufacturing through web, email and social conversations to ensure they understand how the products they are purchasing are made.
Photo courtesy The North Face