Companies start out being niche players, making some sort of specialized clothing. If they are successful there, they eventually figure out that there sales growth will be limited until they break out of their niche and market to a broader demographic than cave divers or artic kayakers. They stop selling sporting goods and start selling a lifestyle. Sometimes, as with A&F, Eddie Bauer, or AEO, any pretense of providing outdoor gear is abandoned, sometimes they coexist, but the quality of the outdoor wear deteriorates as it is marketed broadly (recently, Keen). North Face is not really a surprise though, they were never a great niche player (softshell jackets are their forte and are a great mass market product), they made good outdoor gear, though I never found it to be top quality or very innovative (at least in the 20 years I've been noticing such things).