Stab Magazine | Vans: Turning Millions into Billions

Vans: Turning Millions into Billions

How the iconic shoe co went from $330 mil a year to $2 bil.

style // Apr 22, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Celebrating the big 50 this year, middle age life has been damn good to Vans. This week they announced they will retain their title sponsorship of the U.S. Open in Huntington Beach through 2018.

“It’s important for our brand to continue to support the next generation of talented individuals through progressive platforms like the Vans US Open,” said Doug Palladini, Vans’ vice president/general manager for North America (also a former publisher at Surfer magazine).

But the big news is not that Vans and the U.S. Open are still a thing, that matters little to most of us… What’s important to recognise is that to support said “next generation,” Vans is heavily leveraging their legacy and it’s paying off. While large swaths of the surf biz wither on the vine, waffle soles are translating into dollar signs.

In 2003, Vans sales was stalled at $330 million. Then VF Corp bought them and things turned around. Forbes estimates Vans did $2.3 billion in sales in 2015. And it’s worth noting that Fortune Magazine estimates the “surf industry” will do $13 billion in 2017. 

“If someone had suggested to me back then that Vans could be a $2-billion-in-sales business, I would’ve said, ‘No way,’” Mitch Kummetz, an analyst at B. Riley & Co., told Forbes.

But they did. And simply put, Vans can hammer out three-year deals with the WSL and be the only company to put a sticker on Dane Reynold’s boards because they got the dough to do it. In fact, Vans is reportedly the fastest growing brand in the VF portfolio, which includes Reef, The North Face, Wrangler and Timberland. 

In large part they achieved their success by getting back to their roots. They recognised the value of supporting athletes and culture, made subtle but noticeable improvements to their most iconic products while responsibly expanding their apparel line.

With Nathan Florence, Nathan Fletcher, Al Knost, the Gudang trio, Joel Tudor, and Dane, when it comes to cool, it’s hard to bet against the Vans squad. The sponsorship of the U.S. Open and the Triple Crown puts them in great standing on the WSL calendar and last month Nas brought the heat at their House of Vans show in New York. At the moment, everything seems to be flowing in the iconic shoe company’s favour. Who knew cash smelled like waffles? 


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