Timberland has turned up the volume on its most important messaging with the opening of its new global flagship in SoHo.
The soft opening Friday of the 3,254-square-foot store at 550 Broadway between Prince and Spring Streets marked the reveal of a design concept intended to showcase the brand’s dual mission of outfitting people for both work and the outdoors.
“This is the best representation of our DNA,” said Susie Mulder, Timberland’s global brand president.
The concept also puts more of a focus on womenswear, a key growth category for the company, by presenting female-skewed footwear and apparel right inside the entrance.
The store also features The Shed, a customization space where customers who sign up for Timberland’s newly launched membership program can have their shoes or clothing personalized. Timberland has a larger version in its New Hampshire headquarters that also serves as a prototyping lab.
“Timberland may be a New England brand, but we consider New York City to be our second home,” said Tracy Smith, vice president and general manager of Timberland, Americas. “Stepping inside the 550 store, consumers will be fully immersed in all aspects of Timberland’s outdoor and work heritage. Driving a strong phy-gital retail presence in key cities is a key business priority for Timberland. And New York City is arguably the most important city in the world for us. We wouldn’t be the iconic brand we are today if it weren’t for New Yorkers.”
That sentiment was echoed by Mulder, who was in town to christen the new location.
The company had long operated a store in SoHo — a shop at 474 Broadway opened in 2009 — and continues to be attracted by the high traffic the neighborhood draws from both tourists and locals. But this new space “better represented what we do,” she said.
The materials used in the store’s design speak to the company’s ethos. The palette is centered around the brand’s signature wheat and safety orange colors. Movable metal fixtures are inspired by New York City scaffolding while white oak and Oriented Strand Board wood panels help soften the look of the interior.
During the renovation of the space, crews uncovered the original brick walls from 1850, when it was a Tiffany store, and Timberland left the walls uncovered and intact.
As a nod to the brand’s commitment to sustainability, there are 10 3D-printed mannequins from Hans Boodt created from Poly Lactic Acid, a bio-based material made from cornstarch; the OSB wood panels are made of 100 percent recycled material; the white oak is from 90 percent recycled wood; the metal fixtures from recycled materials, and LED lighting was used throughout the space.
In the rear is a Timberloop drop box where customers can bring product that has reached the end of its life to be refurbished or reused. Customers are then given a 20 percent discount that can be used in the store or online.
The space sells a full range of footwear, apparel and accessories for men, women and children from the company’s outdoor, Timberland Pro and lifestyle categories. The location will also carry exclusive, limited-edition and collaboration products.
There are separate footwear walls for each gender showcasing the breadth of the assortment, which ranges from the trademark boots to boat shoes and sandals. One of the company’s newest additions, the Motion 6 hiking boot collection, is being sold in the store. And the Original Timberland Boot, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is a key part of the mix. The Edison Chen design of the Original boot is expected to launch at the store on March 30.
Apparel, much of it featuring the brand’s tree logo, is displayed throughout the store by category. Displays next to key pieces in the store — such as waterproof jackets, graphic Ts, quick-dry shorts and others — have QR codes that consumers can scan to get more information on the product.
Mulder said the store offers the largest selection of womenswear and Pro offerings in the company’s fleet of stores.
“Women’s is a huge focus for us now,” she said. “In fact, it’s one of the single biggest priorities for the brand.” She said Timberland draws a lot of female customers, but it is still seen primarily as a men’s brand. So internally the company is reorganizing to have separate women’s and men’s teams in order to capitalize on what she termed as “a missed opportunity.”
Womenswear represents less than 20 percent of the brand’s business and “the goal is to see it grow. I’d love to get it to 50-50, but I’d be happy to see it north of 30 to 40 percent,” she said.
The enhanced focus on women’s is already paying off in stores where the assortments are broader and the merchandising is appropriate, she said.
Apparel is also seen as an opportunity, Mulder added. That category, too, only represents 20 percent of sales globally with higher numbers in Europe and Asia-Pacific and lower numbers in the U.S. “We’re continuing to enhance our apparel offering as we seek to provide a head-to-toe offering,” Mulder said.
She said although Timberland is seen as a distinctly American brand, 50 percent of its business is outside the U.S. The brand is distributed in more than 100 countries and there are 173 company-owned stores worldwide. The count is even higher when adding partner and franchised stores, with more than 600 units in Europe and the Middle East and more than 500 in Asia.
The SoHo store is only the brand’s ninth full-price unit in America, joining 46 outlets. While there are plans to open additional stores, no details or time frame have been revealed. Even so, elements of the design of the New York unit will be used in the other stores, Mulder said, including the heightened assortment of women’s and Pro products.
She similarly has high hopes for the membership program, which had been used in Europe but was unavailable in the U.S. and Canada until now. The free program is intended to build a true community of Timberland fans by offering members benefits such as early access to products and sales, in-store boot cleaning, free standard shipping, birthday discounts and more perks.
At the SoHo store, the program is being amplified by offering workshops with local community business owners and authenticators, styling sessions, city hiking excursions and other events. Members are able to take advantage of the laser etching, heat pressing and embroidery on any purchase for free.
Mulder, who joined Timberland two years ago after working for Nic+Zoe as well as McKinsey, believes that by cultivating a community, it will help Timberland continue to grow its market share. She acknowledged that like most other brands, the company had faced challenges due to supply chain disruptions, but the situation has turned around in recent months.
“We’re excited about our trajectory,” she said. “I can say confidently that Timberland is back in a big way.”
Timberland, which has been owned by VF Corp. since 2011, had revenue of $1.8 billion in fiscal 2022. In the third quarter, it reported a sales increase of 6 percent to $596 million.
The brand was founded in 1952 as the Abington Shoe Company and its work boot, The Timberland, was introduced in 1973. The Pro workwear brand made its appearance in 1999.
The new store was designed in partnership with The Rosie Lee Group.