The Timberland Company is doing its best to prove the rumor mill wrong, announcing late last week another acquisition that will now give them a presence in the action sports market and a brand foothold in the U.K. Timberland has apparently inked a deal to acquire Howies Limited, an active sports brand based in Wales, U.K. that focuses on BMX, skate, and mountain bike apparel.

Just a few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal published a story suggesting that Timberland was exploring strategic options for the company, including a potential sale. Sports Executive Weekly (SEW_0647) observed that any action to sell the company would appear to run counter to recent moves the company has made to get itself back on track through a string of deals in the outdoor market. Now they are apparently going younger with the Howies deal.

When looking for synergies here it is perhaps better to look at the similarities in approach to social and environmental responsibility than any thoughts of sourcing or opportunities.

“We look to invest in like-minded brands that are focused on innovation, authenticity and integrity, and Howies encompasses all of these core values,” said Jeffrey Swartz, Timberland's president and CEO, in a release. “Together we will leverage our complementary strengths to bring our brands to new consumers and new markets.”

In taking a quick look at the Howies website, SEW soon found the similarities that probably helped Mr. Swartz make the deal. In reviewing the history of the company, Howies has been bootstrapping its operation since it was founded in 1995. The company said that it had secured a loan and a grant in 2005, but it was still under-funded and the best part of the year was spent raising money. Nonetheless, the company still managed to grow sales from £850, 000 to “just over £2 million.” The website chronology indicated that the company had over-bought inventory in 2005 even though they had more than doubled sales so the Spring ’06 catalog was “mostly carry over stock from winter.” The website goes on to say that “Each day we come in and see if we can do it better. That's all we can do.”

In reviewing a piece on company beliefs, Howies states the following:

“A higher quality product will invariably last longer. It will keep on performing as it was designed to for longer before it finally needs replacing. And so over its lifespan it will have consumed less valuable resources than an inferior product that will have been replaced many times. That's why we make the best quality products that we know how. Because ultimately the best thing we can do for the environment is to make our stuff last a real long time.”

They then go on to say that they are not in the business to just make a profit. The site says that, “the thing that has not changed from day one is the desire to make people think about the world we live in. This is, and always will be, why we are in business.” Howies has also committed to give 1% of their sales or 10% of pre-tax profits (whichever is greater) to grass-root environmental and social projects.

>>> SEW expects this positioning will invariably lead to more questioning from analysts about the direction of these deals since the recent acquisitions are not expected to deliver much sales or earnings growth for a company that has taken a beating in its core urban business. This deal seems to be more about kindred spirits than the bottom line, but it is also a positioning that plays better to the millennial consumer…