Authentic Brands and Simon Property make a big move outdoors with Eddie Bauer deal

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/RiverNorthPhotography
May 10, 2021

Authentic Brands Group (ABG) and Simon Property Group have teamed up again, this time to acquire Eddie Bauer.

The two companies, which formed SPARC Group, a joint venture to acquire well known retail brands at favorable prices, will be adding its newest acquisition to a group that currently consists of Aeropostale, Brooks Brothers, Forever 21, Lucky Brand and Nautica. The group as it is currently configured generates nearly $8.6 billion in annual sales.

Eddie Bauer, which was founded in 1920, will continue to be headquartered in Seattle with Damien Huang remaining as president. The company, which has hung on through struggles, bankruptcies and new owners for nearly 20 years, has a storied history that includes the creation of the first down jacket by Eddie Bauer himself. The current owner, PSEB Group is an operating company owned by Golden Gate Capital.

The chain currently has 300 stores across the U.S. and Canada, reports Reuters. Nearly half its retail sales last year were generated online as the company adapted to conditions created by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The retailer has a long list of competitors including Amazon.com, Back Country, Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Eastern Mountain Sports, L.L. Bean, Moosejaw, Patagonia and REI.

ABG will own Eddie Bauer’s intellectual property and the core operating business will be added to SPARC’s portfolio.

“Eddie Bauer has a 100-year history of unparalleled authority in the outdoor space,” said Jamie Salter, Founder, chairman and CEO of ABG. “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 in partnership with SPARC, Damien and the rest of the Eddie Bauer team.”

Mr. Huang sees the Bauer brand remaining strong and believes the retailer is ready “to compete and win in a digitally-driven, omnichannel world.”

ABG and SPARC have committed to continuing the chain’s programs such as One Outside (formerly called All Outside) program, which seeks to connect members of underrepresented communities with the great outdoors. The 25-year program, which includes a partnership with American Forest, has planted over eight million trees across the U.S. and Canada.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will the acquisition of Eddie Bauer by Authentic Brands Group and Simon Property Group strengthen the retailer going forward? What will it take for Eddie Bauer to succeed in such a crowded market with equally or better known competitors?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"By injecting some younger direct-to-consumer brands it could bring new focus to the entire SPARC portfolio."
"If anyone can nurture Eddie Bauer and set them on the right track, it would be SPARK."
"Eddie Bauer has a great legacy to build on and will hopefully benefit from the acquisition with additional market awareness."

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15 Comments on "Authentic Brands and Simon Property make a big move outdoors with Eddie Bauer deal"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

This is another piece of the Authentic Brands Group/Simon Property Group puzzle. This group has assembled an impressive group of retail brands, and the acquisition of Eddie Bauer is another, high-equity brand addition. Eddie Bauer has had much success, and even after all the challenges that is has faced, still has meaningful brand equity. Ultimately, Eddie Bauer and the other brands in the group need to find their way back to consumers in a post-pandemic world, and the Authentic Brands/Simon Property Group team needs to figure out how to make money at this.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Eddie Bauer is a solid brand but it’s one that would benefit from some amplification. In one of our 2020 surveys for outdoor apparel and products, spontaneous awareness of Eddie Bauer was fairly low and too many, especially younger, consumers were not very knowledgeable about what the brand stood for or what its specialty is. Whether Authentic Brands Group and Simon Property Group can change that remains to be seen – but there is an opportunity here.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

I haven’t thought that Eddie Bauer was in need of any kind of drastic fix, but I’m still guessing they will benefit from this new ownership. I was hugely impressed with how Aeropostale executed under ABG versus prior ownership, so I suspect EB will benefit from that same kind of discipline and focus. EB has a great brand legacy to build on.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Just owning a brand does not automatically turn it into the brand it once was. Eddie Bauer is in a space crowded with worthy competitors, but it also has a rich history that needs to be revived. What is SPARC going to put into the brand that will return Eddie Bauer to its glory days? Lower rents?

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust
Richard Hernandez
Director, Main Street Markets
1 year 3 months ago

I think Eddie Bauer got lost in the shuffle with all the rest of the competition, and I hope this acquisition will help in Eddie Bauer finding its relevance in retail. I believe the brand still carries a lot of weight but it now needs a reason for customers to go back again and take another look.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Many have tried to “fix” Eddie Bauer since Spiegel over-expanded what was a flagship idea into 500+ stores in the ’90s. However with the strong outdoor trend today, if they can get back to their high-quality roots, great online presence and many less physical expressions, it’s a brand that has true cred and could be profitable. It’s just not a huge brand, never was and, let’s face it, there needs to be a lot of marketing work done to help two new generations even understand that it is, in fact, an authentic outdoor brand and not just a weak clothing offering in a mall. Given the sale price, it’s an investment worth the risk, IMO. They are, in fact, the real deal — Eddie was a real person; start there.

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

Eddie Bauer fits well into the portfolio of brands SPARC has assembled and adds the obligatory recreational clothing offering. SPARC might consider adding some newer, more dynamic brands into this portfolio such as Outdoor Voices, to inject more energy into their brand mix. This would then develop a pretty interesting ecosystem of products to generate shopper interest and repeat sales. Most of the brands they have purchased to date are “aging rock stars” that don’t receive the play time they did at their peak. By injecting some younger direct-to-consumer brands it could bring new focus to the entire SPARC portfolio.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

You are absolutely correct, “SPARC might consider adding some newer, more dynamic brands into this portfolio such as Outdoor Voices, to inject more energy into their brand mix.”

The problem is the objective of these acquisitions is not about energy into their brand mix. It is a financial play. Keep cash coming instead of having empty stores. “Aging rock stars” have never returned to their previous glory, they just fade away. Wring out every dollar until there is no more.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Thinking of the SPARC’s ability to operate and comparing them, from an operational and marketing POV, versus Amazon.com, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Eastern Mountain Sports, L.L. Bean, Moosejaw, Patagonia and REI, I don’t see a renewed future for Eddie.

This and the others are a financial play for SPG. Anything to keep stores open.
The SPARC group is a Hail Mary for these chains and the malls they are in. How many Hail Marys work?

Kathleen Fischer
BrainTrust

Eddie Bauer has a great legacy to build on and will hopefully benefit from the acquisition with additional market awareness. It’s a testament to the brand and products that it has stayed afloat over the last 20 years.

Raj B. Shroff
BrainTrust

GGC did a great job focusing on product design and creating apparel that is fashionable enough so the brand seems to be a good spot for the above average mass market adventurer. I am curious to know what success looks like to the new owners. In this space, it’s very easy to get watered down so the new owners should take care on that front. Any rapid expansion can easily dilute the brand.

What it will take for EB is to see where they can win and where that space is with younger audiences. Build an enhanced social/marketing footprint, building a perception in line with this generation of outdoors. Take a playbook from YETI with their brand work, placements, sponsorships, etc.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Eddie Bauer is a great brand; recognizable and with a strong track record for quality. Still, there is stiff competition. The acquisition by ABG and Simon has some interesting opportunities. I get that ABG is acquiring brands. At the same time, I wonder how the landlord/developer will do when they become the tenant. All that said, perhaps Eddie Bauer will get some preferential leases, great positioning, better promotion, etc. This could help them in a very competitive market.

Trevor Sumner
BrainTrust

Eddie Bauer will benefit from decreased rent load, expanded touch points in Simon malls and properties, and increased access to technology and distribution at scale. This is a great model to ensure lower mall vacancy rates and increased capture of margins, while reducing costs and cross-promoting its brand portfolio.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

I wish them well, but:

  • As we’ve many times seen, when someone buys up a bunch of brands, it’s almost inevitable that some of them will end up neglected. So while the hope is always for synergies, the reality is frequently quite different.
  • At the retail — i.e. store — level, Eddie Bauer has been jerked around for so many years, it’s surprising it has any equity left (though given the nature of the acquisition maybe it doesn’t).

Again I hope for the best, but I’m not going to put my 401K into this effort.

Rachelle King
BrainTrust

If anyone can nurture Eddie Bauer and set them on the right track, it would be SPARK. Given their already strong digital sales and the increased relevance of getting outdoors during this pandemic, this is a recipe for success for both SPARK and Eddie Bauer.

To succeed, however, SPARK will need to make the Eddie Bauer brand name just as relevant as what the brand stands for. Competitors like Patagonia can also get consumers outdoors. The deciding factor will be brand relevance, approachability and alignment with consumer values. This is a space on which Spark might want to focus. The upcoming coming summer months is a perfect backdrop brand equity building.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"By injecting some younger direct-to-consumer brands it could bring new focus to the entire SPARC portfolio."
"If anyone can nurture Eddie Bauer and set them on the right track, it would be SPARK."
"Eddie Bauer has a great legacy to build on and will hopefully benefit from the acquisition with additional market awareness."

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