Shake-up at Icebreaker: US parent company VF Corporation puts retailer through restructure

VF Corporation-owned merino wool clothing company Icebreaker is undergoing a major restructure, with up to 50 local staff set to lose their jobs.

The Ponsonby-based retailer, which operates 16 shops in New Zealand, six in Australia and 15 in North America, was sold to the owner of The North Face, Vans and Timberland brands in November 2017 for $288 million.

The Kiwi-founded company is undergoing consultation with staff and expects 40-50 jobs to be disestablished as some parts of its operations are moved offshore to Switzerland, where VF International is headquartered.

VF Corporation global president of Icebreaker, Jan Van Mossevelde, told the Herald the restructure was necessary for the brand to further expand globally.

He was vague on detail, and would not specify which divisions of the business would be moved offshore, but said jobs that were focused on the global business were among those that would be disestablished.

The Herald understands marketing roles are among those that will be run out of Switzerland and the company has begun asking some senior staff to consider relocating to Switzerland.

The US retail giant has plans to double the size of Icebreaker by 2025 as it moves to expand its apparel offering from outdoor clothing to casual every day wear and smart work wear. To do this it would need to “undertake a reorganisation of both the business and team structure in New Zealand”, Van Mossevelde said.

As of October, the Icebreaker entity will cease trading and the business will be split into three new entities – two set to be based out of the Ponsonby head office and one in Switzerland.

Van Mossevelde could not delve into details, but he said the restructure would simplify operations and allow roles to be “situated closer to the markets they support”.

He said the redundancy notice to staff had been “met with empathy”.

“We are now at a point where we see a unique opportunity of rapid growth and we have come to realise that the current structure will not position us in the best place to enable that growth,” Van Mossevelde said.

Icebreaker employs 112 staff in New Zealand and has stores in Auckland, Queenstown, Wellington Airport, Ōtaki, Napier, and partner stores in Queenstown Airport and Wellington.

Van Mossevelde said Icebreaker’s connection to New Zealand had been “central to the brand’s success to date” and VF “remained committed” to the country and its local suppliers as the business entered its next stage of growth.

Icebreaker was founded by Jeremy Moon in 1995. He is understood to have made almost $100m from the sale of the company.

VF Corp is an almost US$14 billion ($19.4b) footwear and clothing company based in Denver, Colorado. In addition to The North Face, Vans and Timberland, VF also owns Dickies, Jansport, Kipling, Wrangler and Supreme brands.

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