Outdoor brand Eddie Bauer is the latest retailer to be snapped up by brand management firm Authentic Brands Group (ABG) and SPARC Group, a joint venture between ABG and mall operator Simon Property Group.
The partners agreed to acquire Eddie Bauer from PacSun Eddie Bauer (PSEB) Group, an operating company owned by private equity firm Golden Gate Capital. Following the closing of the deal, ABG will own the Eddie Bauer IP, and the brand’s core operating business will become a part of the SPARC portfolio of brands, which also includes Brooks Brothers, Lucky Brand, Nautica, Aéropostale and Forever 21. Eddie Bauer currently has a growing ecommerce business, which drove nearly half of the brand’s annual retail sales last year, as well as 300 brick-and-mortar stores located mostly in the U.S. and Canada.
The Eddie Bauer brand has been at the center of a number of mergers and acquisitions over the last 12 years, after being bought out of bankruptcy by Golden Gate in 2009. In 2014, men’s apparel brand Jos. A. Bank attempted to acquire Eddie Bauer, but the acquisition was dropped when the boards of directors at Jos. A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse agreed to merge and form Tailored Brands. Then in 2018, Golden Gate created the PSEB operating company, bringing PacSun and Eddie Bauer together under a single entity.
Eddie Bauer will give ABG a stake in the outdoor lifestyle category, which saw huge growth in 2020 as consumers sought refuge in the outdoors during the pandemic. The outdoor brand will remain headquartered in the Seattle area, under the leadership of current President Damien Huang.
“Eddie Bauer has a 100-year history of unparalleled authority in the outdoor space,” said Jamie Salter, Founder, Chairman and CEO of ABG in a statement. “The global outdoor market opportunity has grown exponentially over the last year and we are ready to hit the ground running and guide this brand into new frontiers.”
ABG said it plans to “tap into the essence of Eddie Bauer” to extend into new outdoor categories and distribution, with international growth playing an important role in future brand strategy. The company plans to expand Eddie Bauer into Latin America, Europe and APAC, beginning with near-term launches in China and Korea.
Meanwhile, SPARC will focus on introducing enhanced content for the brand, growing its following online and launching new collaborations. In February 2020, Eddie Bauer announced a deal with Kohl’s to bring its apparel offerings to Kohl’s customers online and at approximately 500 stores nationwide beginning in fall 2021. ABG executives were not immediately available for comment on whether this partnership will continue under the new ownership.
“The addition of Eddie Bauer introduces a new and highly differentiated expertise to the SPARC organization,” said Marc Miller, CEO of SPARC in a statement. “The brand pushes the boundaries of technical innovation and performance with award-winning outdoor product offerings, bringing an entirely new component to our fashion and lifestyle brand portfolio.”
ABG and SPARC said they also plan to continue Eddie Bauer’s purpose-driven initiatives. These include the One Outside program, designed to make the outdoors more accessible and inclusive for underrepresented communities, and its partnership with American Forests, a 25-year long initiative that has planted more than 8 million trees across the U.S. and Canada.
“As an iconic brand dedicated to making the outdoors more accessible and enjoyable for everyone, Eddie Bauer has built up great momentum,” said Huang in a statement. “I am proud of our team’s achievements to better position Eddie Bauer to compete and win in a digitally driven omnichannel world. We are excited to partner with ABG and SPARC, who recognize the significant opportunities ahead, and are well-positioned to help us maximize the brand’s full potential and expand our global presence as a leader among outdoor and active brands.”