VF Corporation (NYSE: VFC), the world’s largest publicly held apparel company, announced Monday that it will launch an e-commerce site by early Spring, to sell its Healthtex brand online, direct to retail shops. Healthtex, which manufactures children’s clothing, is the first VF company to open an e-commerce site for business-to-business (wholesale to retail) sales.
While VF is not exactly a household name, its well-known brands include Wrangler jeans, Lee jeans, Jantzen and Vanity Fair. Monday’s announcement did not specify when those brands might be available to purchasing agents online, though president and CEO Mackey McDonald indicated that e-commerce will be an important part of the company’s business plan, this year and going forward. McDonald also mentioned plans to sell online direct to consumers in the future, although no specific details were disclosed.
Wholesale to Retail:A Perfect Fit for E-Commerce
Of course, the online purchasing model of e-commerce is a logical fit for commercial buyers. It offers an easy way for clothing manufacturers to cut expenses, by eliminating the need for a sales person being involved with every sale. We can expect other VF companies, as well as their competitors to soon follow suit — demonstrating the power of e-commerce for the wholesale market, as well as the consumer market.
In fact, VF indicated that finding a way to better support retailers was a primary impetus for developing the new e-commerce site. Buyers of the Healthtex line of children’s clothes will be able to view and select the entire line of seasonal products, on the Web, at their convenience, instead of working only through a sales representative or participating in the frenzy of semi-annual tradeshows.
In addition, the company indicated that product photos on the site should show better detail of embroidery and fabric than standard photography, making it easier for purchasing agents to see what they’re buying. The site is also expected to offer an advantage over the traditional sales channel for apparel, by enabling buyers to order replenishment items easily and cost-effectively when needed.
The Healthtex e-commerce-enabled site will debut for the press in Las Vegas, at the MAGIC apparel show, March 1st through 4th.
VF Corporation is based in Greensboro, North Carolina, with annual sales in excess of $5 billion (US$).