VF Corp, the largest domestic producer of jeanswear and the largest US apparel supplier, yesterday revealed plans to launch its Wrangler jeanswear brand in China during 2003.

Vice president and chairman of the international jeanswear division, Terry Lay, told analysts and investors that China, with its large population and its affinity for Western-style clothing and brands, is considered "a real gateway to our strength in Asia."

In 1996 VF Corp introduced its Lee brand in China, where annual sales growth now stands at 30 per cent.

On a more general level, Mr Lay said international jeanswear sales grew 3 per cent in 2001 and 8 per cent in the first quarter of this year - beating the corporate target for 5 per cent growth. International business represent about 19 per cent of VF Corp's sales, with international jeanswear brands such as Lee, HIS, Old Axe, Wrangler and Maverick accounting for around 10 per cent of corporate sales.

Top markets for VF's international jeans business are Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and France where jeanswear is fashion-driven and a premium-priced market. Europeans on average buy about half as many jeans as Americans he explained.

Mr Lay said VF brand's should increase their 5.7 per cent share of the Western European market in coming years. The firm is planning to introduce innovative styles and finishes and plans to boost its marketing spending by 7 per cent in 2002.

In 2001 VF Corp generated net income of $137.8 million on revenue of $5.5 billion.