Parent of North Face to camp in Denver

Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 2:56 PM
A 1980s-vintage JanSport expedition pack is pictured with a 1970s-vintage North Face down sleeping bag. The company that makes The North Face outdoor clothes, JanSport packs, Timberland boots and several other products plans to move its headquarters to metro Denver over the next two years, eventually bringing as many as 800 jobs.

DENVER – The company that makes The North Face outdoor clothes, JanSport packs, Timberland boots and a host of other consumer products plans to move the headquarters for those brands to metro Denver soon, eventually bringing as many as 800 jobs.

And that’s thanks in large part to tax incentives of as much as $27 million being offered by the Colorado Economic Development Commission, Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal reports. He says it’s the second-largest incentives package the state has ever offered to a company to relocate and create jobs.

The planned Denver move, announced this week, is part of a split by Greensboro, North Carolina-based clothing conglomerate VF Corp., a publicly traded company whose roots go back 119 years.

VF intends to split off its outdoor and activeware division, which also includes the Smartwool, Altra, Icebreaker, Eagle Creek and Williamson-Dickie brands, and move its headquarters to the Denver area over the next couple of years. That business will keep the VF name.

Smartwool, which makes socks and underwear, currently is based in Steamboat Springs.

Metro Denver also will be home to VF’s “Global Innovation Center” for developing technical fabrics, the company said. The exact site of the new VF headquarters was not announced.

The news was greeted with mixed feelings in Steamboat Springs, where the Smartwool staff was told Monday that the headquarters will be moving to Denver.

“It’s a very sad day to have to move out of this amazing community that we have here in Steamboat,” Smartwool President Jen McLaren told the Steamboat Pilot & Today. The article said about 70 Smartwool employees will be offered jobs in Denver.

Meanwhile, VF’s denim-products division, including Wrangler and Lee brands, will stay put in Greensboro under the (possibly temporary) name NewCo, along with the company’s outlet business.

The deal, which has been tentatively backed by VF’s board of directors, still needs final board approval as well as an OK from regulators, the company said.

The split stems from the fact that VF’s activeware and outdoor-gear sales are surging (with revenue up 25 percent for activeware and 6 percent for outdoor merchandise in the latest quarter from the previous year), while denim sales are soft (up 3 percent), reflecting a consumer move away from jeans to yoga pants and other alternatives.

VF says it expects its Denver-based business to generate annual revenue of $11 billion.

And that, says the DBJ’s Sealover, will mean an 11th Fortune 500 company for Colorado.

“The decision to separate these businesses will allow VF to sharpen its focus as a consumer-centric and retail-minded organization anchored in activity-based lifestyle brands,” Steve Rendle, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement Monday.

VF controls 55 percent of backpack sales in the U.S., the New York Times reported in 2015. In 2014, Americans bought 174 million packs.

VF originated in Pennsylvania in 1899 as the Reading Glove and Mitten Manufacturing Co., and later was called Vanity Fair Mills. It acquired Lee in 1969, the parent of JanSport, Wrangler in 1986 and Timberland in 2011. VF moved to North Carolina in 1998.

The largest financial-incentives package ever awarded to a company by Colorado was a $34 million sweetener granted in 2017 to telecommunications giant Charter Communications Inc., which offers internet, cable TV and phone service under the Spectrum brand. That offer is contingent on Charter creating 1,200 jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.