Supreme: Remaining Cool While Pursuing Growth
Following VF Corporation's acquisition of cult streetwear brand Supreme, consumers and industry pundits were nervous that becoming part of a large, public corporation would put an end to Supreme's slow and careful growth trajectory as pressure for quarterly results became more prominent. From its humble beginnings as a skate shop in downtown Manhattan, Supreme had become a global cult brand favored by celebrities, key opinion leaders, and socialites. The mere fact that Supreme was losing its independence could jeopardize its brand mystique. VF's chief financial officer reported that Supreme had more than doubled revenues from $200 million in 2017 and foresaw a clear line of sight to a billion dollars, citing opportunities of further e-commerce penetration as well as expanding the global footprint of Supreme's retail stores. Online fan forums lit up on news of the acquisition, with many expressing concern that a brand once described as "nothing short of a religion to its fervent disciples" would lose its street credibility. Could founder James Jebbia maintain the iconic and exclusive image of Supreme while VF pursued its aggressive growth agenda? As Supreme scaled and made itself more accessible to the masses, could it hold onto its countercultural appeal and sense of cool? Looking ahead to 2021, Supreme would continue to grapple with the lost profit opportunity related to entrepreneurial resellers, who purchased and then flipped Supreme merchandise on marketplaces such as eBay at significant profits. The company would also need to contend with counterfeiters who were eagerly knocking off the company's logo and others who were culturally appropriating Supreme's cool factor.