Timberland CEO Swartz tells of key decisions
Recounting his company's modest beginnings in 1952, when his father purchased an interest in Abington Shoe Company, Sidney Swartz, chairman of Timberland Company, recently told the Entrepreneurs Forum at the International Business School of some of the numerous challenges involved in building the footwear and apparel juggernaut. The Entrepreneurs Forum is sponsored by the business school's Asper Institute of Global Entrepreneurship.
In a lecture entitled “From Workboots to Casual Fridays,” Swartz identified some of the key decisions he credits with building Timberland into one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands.
One was an early gamble on new technology, testing injection molding machines as a new way to manufacture shoes. Another was having a willingness to develop a discount retail channel. Finally, Swartz made a decision to start a branded division of the company, because he believed that “price alone is no place to be.”
During his tenure as a CEO at Timberland, Swartz led a variety of breakthrough initiatives. In 1987, one year after his father, Nathan Swartz, handed him the reins to the family business, Timberland became the first boot company to advertise on national television. Swartz continued to expand the company, transforming it into a lifestyle brand that produced more than just work boots. By the 1990’s, Timberland had launched women’s and children’s apparel, casual shoes, boat shoes, jackets and watches into the international market.
Timberland is also known for being on the forefront of the corporate social responsibility movement. It has developed a number of initiatives in this arena, including programs to reduce its emissions and carbon footprint and reporting its performance of key indicators of corporate social responsibility.
“Fashion follows function,” Swartz said, explaining how high-quality, heavy-duty footwear developed a broad appeal. "People like authentic products.”