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IQ News: VF Sews Up New Net Strategy

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After a tumultuous 14-month stretch in which apparel maker VF Corp. has changed its online direction several times, the Charlotte, N.C.-based company has decided to let its brand groups determine their own online strategies.
The changes come as VF, which markets Wrangler jeans, Jantzen swimwear and JanSport backpacks, among other brands, has created a new division dedicated to directing the corporation's online sales and technology strategy. It is headed by former VF marketing services manager Amy Robinson, who has been named electronic commerce manager of VF Services Inc. In mid-April, VF quietly moved longtime Internet marketing pointman, Jim Corbett, who had been Robinson's boss, to sales director for the company's private label brands and knitwear division.
The executive shuffling coincides with VF's decision to stop having its 20 labels pay into one corporate Web budget. "We're not going to have a common message or pay for advertising on the corporate level when those dollars are better spent by each of the brands," said Robinson.
Thus, the new strategy is a death knell for VF's attempts at building a themed audience-aggregator site. That strategy led to the creation of "Threads," an online soap opera that was abandoned in April 1997, and more recently, Spincycles, which was designed to attract random surfers interested in apparel.
As Robinson's title suggests, part of her duties involve exploring electronic commerce capabilities. Currently, JanSport is the only VF brand testing the transactions waters, teaming with Seattle-based outdoor equipment retailer REI to sell backpacks to cyber-shoppers.
--Bernhard Warne