Why retail is the next frontier for Timberland in its green mission

The permanent space in the capital’s Carnaby Street sits at the intersection of nature and fashion

Earlier this year Timberland revealed plans to commit to plant 50m trees by 2025 in a bid to underscore its sustainability credentials and up profits in society where the climate crisis is top of mind. Now, it is extending its green ethos into its retail spaces with the launch of its first “purpose-led” flagship store in London – a concept it hopes to emulate globally.

With real trees, a full-height living green wall, and natural elements throughout, the permanent space in the capital’s Carnaby Street sits at the intersection of nature and fashion. The aim, says Argu Secilmis Timberland's vice-president of global brand, is to bring nature into the city and encourage customers to interact and explore the brand in a more physical way.

He is hoping the story of eco-innovation told in store about how the outdoor fashion retailer makes and sources its clothes will showcase its dedication to improving the environment.

“It’s not just a store design concept,” he says. “It’s a cultural shift and a transformation for the brand. The vision is bringing our heritage and where we come from – which is nature – to life, indoors and in four walls.

“We believe it’s a great competitive advantage and a great consumer experience.”

The marketer is looking for the first-of-its-kind store to brings to life Timberland’s global ‘Nature Needs Heroes’ campaign which has seen it champion a diverse range of “eco-heroes” – individuals who are committing themselves to creating a greener planet in communities around the world – in its marketing and advertising content since the summer.

The Carnaby Street flagship is one of three purpose-led stores opening around the globe, with others in Philadelphia and New York serving as the model for how Timberland wants its physical interactions with customers to look.

In order to strengthen brand perceptions with a long-term focus on sustainability, CSR pillars in-store stand tall to educate customers on the recycled materials and responsible technologies used in the production of Timberland merchandise. Further sustainable elements of the space include a combination of recycled materials obtained from industrial leftovers with Bio-resin for mannequins.

Product collections span footwear, apparel and accessories for men, women and kids. And customers can “touch and feel” materials at ‘Design Your Own’ station which lets them personalise purchases like Timberland boots.

Melissa Rotta Loria, Timberland EMEA, brand marketing and creative director and her team have been working on the project for 18 months. She says the design “reflects the direction” Timberland wants to take as a brand.

“The concept was to bring the outside in… but we’re also trying to deliver an environment that will speak to a younger generation."

'Doing good in a meaningful way'

Until September this year, Timberland’s marketing focus was firmly fixed on craftsmanship and targeted towards men. However, Secilmis says the brand itself been evolving as a green business for some 30 years. For instance, it’s already planted more than 10m trees globally since 2001; but he admits sustainability initiatives have until now been communicated through below-the-line and that it hasn’t done a great job of “putting the pieces together” to tell its story.

He adds that the ‘Nature Needs Heroes’ campaign, which is running across print, digital, out-of-home, social and PR, has already shown “phenomenal” results since its launched at the UN Summit two months ago.

In a world where Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion are daily news occurrences, the brand’s engagement across social media on the back of the push has been the highest the brand has ever seen.

“First and foremost the media is interested in what we are talking about. That is one of our major [measurement] criteria,” explains Secilmis. “It’s a proof point this campaign is working well for us.”

“We’re very proud and positive, but we’re going to measure [success] over a six to twelve-month period,” he adds, saying that the next frontier will be to bring sustainably produced products into the storytelling fold.

The week its London store opened its doors, Timberland teamed up with MTV London, eco organisation National Park City and musician Loyle Carner to host the launch screening of an environmental documentary called Concrete Green.

As to whether the brand is looking to go down the P&G route and funnel more spend into long-form content like movies, Secilmis isn't convinced it's a route his own brand is ready to take quite yet.

He says it wants to work with eco influencers for“value content creation” on platforms like Instagram, but when it comes to "high media" and storytelling through traditional film his team is still figuring out a blueprint.

“We have the vision to do good in a meaningful way,” he says. “I want to create content digitally using real people in real places with real impact. [It needs to have] value rather than us creating a documentary for the sake of commercial purposes.”

Though it’s something the brand is keen to explore in the future, Secilmis says investing in feature-length documentaries isn’t something the brand is exploring at the moment.

“We want to tell the truth and an authentic story and find an organic way to do that,” he says.

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