Retail in Asia


VF Corp CCO Martino Guerrini talks Southeast Asia expansion, GMG partnership

VF Corp Martino Scabbia Guerrini

VF Corporation, home to brands such as Vans, The North Face, and Timberland, recently announced the extension of its partnership with retail conglomerate GMG, aimed at expanding the presence of VF’s brands in Southeast Asia (SEA), the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

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The partnership between GMG and VF Corporation has spanned more than 12 years, and GMG currently operates 90 VF brand stores.

Over the next five, GMG is set to ambitiously expand the store network for VF’s brands, rolling out more than 300 mono-brand stores across SEA and MENA as well as driving e-commerce business as part of the distributorship and retail development agreement. 

Retail in Asia speaks with Martino Scabbia Guerrini, global chief commercial officer and president of emerging brands at VF Corporation, on the partnership and VF’s expansion strategy in Asia-Pacific. 

Source: Vans
Retail in Asia: Can you tell us about your plans with GMG to expand VF brands across APAC?

Martino Scabbia Guerrini: The partnership will be rolled out gradually over the next five years, starting with Saudi Arabia, as its tourism and business opportunities have been growing, followed by Southeast Asia and North Africa.

GMG will introduce VF’s brands across key Southeast Asian markets, open mono-brand stores, and drive e-commerce business for select VF brands. This will strategically drive brand penetration and presence in growth markets like Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam.

We continue to be committed to growing our brands in the marketplace, especially in Southeast Asia where we see significant opportunity.

The expanded partnership will bring about the right level of investment and focus that will help us elevate and grow our brands in this rapidly evolving marketplace. 

The North Face
Source: The North Face
Retail in Asia: Some of your brands such as Vans are no stranger to the SEA markets. What are some opportunities that you are seeing in this region for some of your other brands, such as The North Face?

Scabbia Guerrini: Southeast Asia is a fast-growing market with an increasing number of  young people who have a strong passion for sports, the outdoors, and an active lifestyle. 

Leveraging GMG’s local expertise and network, VF will be able to penetrate these markets more effectively, strengthen its go–to–market approach, and create a stronger connection with local consumers. 

This creates a perfect opportunity for VF’s active and outdoor brands such as The North Face to serve consumers who are looking for high-quality products for their outdoor adventures. 

Earlier in May, GMG announced the opening of its first The North Face store in Southeast Asia after the expansion of the partnership. The North Face’s triumphant return to Singapore is marked with the launch of an innovative concept store, spanning over 2,445 square feet located at VivoCity.

The North Face’s VivoCity store in Singapore.
Retail in Asia: Can you share with us the approach to brick and mortar as well as e-commerce expansion in Southeast Asia? How important do you think your mono-brand stores will be, and what types of locations are most attractive for VF?

Scabbia Guerrini: We aim to create a powerful omni-channel strategy that drives success. We offer diversified products across multiple channels of distribution in different regions with a goal to become more consumer-minded, retail-centric and hyper-digital to meet and exceed consumers’ needs.

Brick-and mortar-stores are an important part of our strategy, as among the many benefits of brick-and mortar-stores, they provide a unique and valuable customer experience that is locally relevant and cannot be replicated online. We want to continuously offer relevant and innovative store concept that can meet, and exceed, consumer needs. 

Attractive locations for the stores would be areas with high foot traffic and a good mix of residential and commercial spaces. Targeting areas with a focus on outdoor activities or active lifestyles would be ideal for brands like The North Face and Timberland.

In terms of e-commerce, SEA has a very dynamic and segmented e-commerce landscape. 

There are major regional platforms and active local players, and in some markets plays a big part. When approaching e-commerce expansion, apart from considering platform demographics and positioning to match with our brands, we also have to assess the operational and logistical feasibilities in individual markets. We’ve already partnered with several e-commerce companies in Southeast Asia and have built relevant insights that are being leveraged to drive product, content and promotion strategies.

A TImberland store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Source: Shutterstock

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Retail in Asia: Why do you think that now a good time to build your presence in Southeast Asia?

Scabbia Guerrini: The global retail market was valued at USD28.3 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow to USD37.7 billion by 2027.

We have also seen a strong and growing demand for quality lifestyle and outdoor apparel, footwear, and accessories in Southeast Asia. This undertaking will propel our brands into a new phase of regional growth and consumer engagement. 

Since VF brands already have a strong presence in SEA with a loyal consumer base, it is a great time to continue to leverage the strengths and unique positioning of our brands to drive relevance and to offer exciting products and elevate consumer experience for the growing SEA markets. That’s why the new strategic partnership with GMG will provide fresh insights and agility to strengthen our relationship with existing consumers and bring new consumers into the fold to grow market share.