• Photographed by Mark Watson. Image: Supplied
    Photographed by Mark Watson. Image: Supplied

The North Face Australia has reaped the benefits of longer lead times for seasonal deliveries, as global supply chains face disruption following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The outdoor brand operates nine full-price concept stores in Australia, four outlets and a network of wholesale accounts nationally.

The North Face GM Paul Karis said ordering cycles for the brand have helped keep pace with demand, with challenges limited to quicker turnarounds.

“To some degree, many of our wholesale partners order their product 14 to 15 months out from delivery so that it is seasonally correct for the southern hemisphere,” he said. “In these instances, it gives us a lot of buffer to get the product made and into our warehouse for on time delivery. 

“For those customers buying on the shorter lead time, there are definitely issues with getting full production and on time delivery. However, we have very strong and enduring relationships with our wholesale partners who have been fantastic to deal with and very understanding. As such, we have faced very few cancellations for late deliveries.”

The wholesale orders come amid a strong uptake in performance wear, particularly insulation ranging during the winter season.

“The acceptance of the puffer jacker by lifestyle consumers as a daily wearable item has seen very strong sales from quite early in the season to the point where literally all our channels have been sold out of the sought after Nuptse jacket and vest,” Karis confirmed. “Fortunately we have a broad range of products in this category and have seen good uptake of alternate silhouettes and designs.”

Looking forward, Karis said inventory will continue to be allocated to the best performing channels. The North Face Australia implemented a new platform prior to the pandemic, enabling strong growth in online shopping during lockdown.  

“The biggest difficulty with online is trying to forecast growth for the next couple of years,” Karis said. “With bricks and mortar shopping picking up so strongly, it’s really hard to determine the impact on growth for the online channel.  We try to determine the total market demand for inventory and then send it where it needs to go which is to whatever channel is performing the strongest.”

While staffing bricks-and-mortar stores has also been challenging for retailers during the pandemic, Karis said The North Face has benefited from its group structure under local distributor True Alliance.

“As a part of True Alliance, we have a pool of stores with other brands that we are able to share staff with at times. Some days, you just have to operate on shorter shop hours. Retail team members have been at the coal face throughout this period and we are immensely grateful to them for the way they have conducted themselves day in and day out, showing such strong resilience.”

Looking forward, The North Face plans to maximise on the growth in outerwear sales. 

“It’s been fascinating to see authentic, hard core outdoor brands getting adopted by the lifestyle market from Tier 0 boutiques through to main stream chains," Karis said. Also, the wellness benefits of getting outdoors and offline is being understood by more and more people. The outdoors should be accessible to everyone, so as far as we’re concerned, the more we see the Outdoors showing up in mainstream, the better for everyone."

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