Done Deals: VF Unloads 9 Work Brands + Nobull’s New Equity Partner

Catch all the latest news about footwear industry acquisitions, and licensing and distribution agreements here. Got a deal in the works? Tell us at web@footwearnews.com.

April 28, 2021: VF Corp. said it is selling the occupational portion of its Work segment to a subsidiary of Redwood Capital Investments, LLC, a diversified holding company. The group of brands includes Red Kap, VF Solutions, Bulwark, Workrite, Walls, Terra, Kodiak, Work Authority and Horace Small. (The sale does not involve the Dickies and Timberland Pro brands.) “The sale of our occupational work brands reflects our continued focus on transforming VF into a more consumer-minded and retail-centric enterprise while further simplifying our portfolio and operating model. We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Redwood Capital Investments. They are an ideal owner to guide these brands and businesses into their next phase of growth,” said Steve Rendle, VF’s president and CEO. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

April 15, 2021: Nobull has secured an equity partner. Exeter Capital, a consumer-focused private equity firm based in Boston, announced that it has partnered with the athletic brand. In a statement, the firm said the transaction will support Nobull’s global growth strategy. “Exeter proactively pursued an investment in Nobull because of its authentic and differentiated brand,” Exeter Capital founding team member and managing director Steven Collins said in a statement. “We are excited to partner with [Nobull co-founders] Marcus [Wilson] and Michael [Schaeffer] to help them further accelerate Nobull’s growth as the brand continues to expand beyond footwear and push into additional sports.” Additionally, Exeter Capital stated Collins will join the Nobull board of directors and Julia Adam, founding team member and principal at the firm, will become a board observer.

March 18, 2021: Paul Stuart is now available at Nordstrom. The footwear brand has expanded its retail footprint with a full-range collection of shoes that are made in Italy. Several spring ’21 styles are available to purchase both in-store and at Nordstrom.com. Starting at $250, you can shop a range of shoe styles at the department store retailer, with more silhouettes expected to come later in the week. Additionally, you can find Paul Stuart’s latest collection at the brand’s various store locations as well as at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

March 12, 2021: JD Sports Fashion Plc has entered into a conditional agreement to acquire 60% of Poland-based Marketing Investment Group S.A. The company, according to a statement, operates 410 retail stores and websites that sell sports fashion footwear, apparel and accessories in nine countries in Central and Eastern Europe. In the year January 31, 2020, JD said MIG generated roughly 200 million pounds in revenues (approximately $278 million).

JD said the completion of the acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the competition authorities in Poland, and the completion of the acquisition is anticipated to be completed before the end of May 2021. Also, JD confirmed that put and call options have been agreed to, which could allow for future exit opportunities for MIG, with whom JD will work in partnership.

“This is an exciting acquisition for JD that will further build on the success of our international development strategy, expanding our operations into Central and Eastern Europe. We have observed and admired the development of MIG over a number of years and we are confident that the combination of their highly experienced and knowledgeable management team, together with the expertise of the JD leadership team, will provide the Group with strong foundations from which to successfully optimize the opportunities in the region,” JD Sports Fashion Plc executive chairman Peter Cowgill said in a statement.

March 4, 2021: CrossFit announced today that it has entered a multiyear partnership with digital fitness company Whoop, which will become the official wearable of the organization. According to CrossFit, this partnership will help athletes benefit from the training, sleep and recovery data that Whoop provides, and the organization will share the data of its top performers via broadcast programming and other digital and on-site channels. Additionally, there will be several health and fitness co-branded events over the course of the partnership, and CrossFit will integrate Whoop insights into the educational component of the sport, such as sleep and recovery content for new members as well as top trainers.

March 1, 2021: New Balance has added yet another beloved athlete to its ambassador in tennis star Eugenie “Genie” Bouchard, who signed a multiyear sponsorship deal. “Having Genie join the New Balance Family will help us to further accelerate our presence in the global tennis category. Additionally, her off-court interests will allow us to build on the significant momentum that the New Balance brand has in the lifestyle space,” New Balance global director of consumer brand marketing and athlete activation Pat Cassidy said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with Genie in the coming years to support her efforts on and off the tennis court.”

Eugenie Bouchard New Balance
Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard, the newest New Balance ambassador.
CREDIT: Courtesy of New Balance

Feb. 22, 2021: Puma has made another key addition to its ambassador roster. The German athletic giant announced today that it has partnered with fitness and lifestyle entrepreneur Bethany Meyers, who is also a renowned LGBTQIA+ advocate. The brand stated Meyers will be featured in its studio collection campaigns and activations to help share its body positive and self-love messaging. Additionally, Puma said Meyers will involved in its Reform platform, specifically focusing on the LGBTQIA+ Rights pillar, focusing on the removal of barriers that keep people from participating in sports and the culture of sport.

Puma Bethany Meyers
Puma’s newest ambassador, LGBTQIA+ advocate Bethany Meyers.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Puma

Feb. 16, 2021: New Balance announced that it will become the kit supplier for soccer club AS Roma starting with the 2021-22 season. According to the athletic brand, the club is the first in Serie A to wear New Balance apparel. Aside from a company statement, both New Balance and AS Roma confirmed the deal through an augmented reality filter game for Instagram that allowed fans to virtually experience the streets of Rome, at the same time discovering the New Balance sponsorship.

Feb. 16, 2021: The Professional Pickleball Association announced today that it has entered retail partnership with both Fila Pickleball and Fromuth Racquet Sports, with both becoming exclusive providers for the Pro Tour in 2021. Fila Pickleball, according to a statement, will become the official athletic apparel and footwear supplier of the tour, and Fromuth will launch a new web store for the Professional Pickleball Association (Thedinkpickleball.com).

“The PPA and Fromuth Racquet Sports share our commitment to growing the sport of pickleball,” Fila North America president Jennifer Estabrook said in a statement. “Through this partnership, we see an incredible opportunity to expand our footprint in the sport, and bring our specially-designed product offerings to pickleball players of all ages, levels, and abilities across the country.”

Feb. 4, 2021: California-based textile and tech company FutureStitch Inc. has signed a multiyear licensing and manufacturing deal with Toms. As part of the agreement, the two firms will design, develop, manufacture, market and distribute a state-of-the-art line of socks. “Our partnership demonstrates FutureStitch’s commitment to working with brands that share our values and guide today’s ideas into tomorrow’s technologies with scalable solutions at every stage of the product development cycle,” said FutureStitch co-founder and CEO Taylor Shupe. Toms CEO Magnus Wedhammar added that the partnership “enables us to leverage the power of FutureStitch’s product design capabilities and highest level of advanced manufacturing to build highly customized products to complement our unique shoe collection.”

Feb. 4, 2021: Camden Media Inc. has agreed to terms with SCL Footwear Group to produce men’s, women’s and children’s footwear for its Outdoor Life subsidiary. As part of the deal, SCL will create shoes across multiple categories, including hiking and trail boots as well as casual footwear and slippers, which are expected to launch in the U.S. and Canada — with distribution to mass, specialty, off-price and e-commerce channels — in the fall. “SCL Footwear Group is a premier manufacturer who appreciates the appeal and trust of the Outdoor Life brand,” said Camden Media head of licensing Richard Oren. “We’re excited to have found a partner who can help us continue to expand the brand and leverage the growing enthusiasm toward outdoor activities.”

Feb. 2, 2021: European comfort brand Tamaris, owned by German footwear company Wortmann Group, has partnered with Waltham, Mass.-based Earth Inc. to reintroduce the line in North America, starting with the fall ’21 collection. “Tamaris should be an instant win in the North American marketplace offering incredible value, design and built-in comfort with a fashion twist,” said SVP Lance DeShazo, who will lead the North American team. The brand debuted to buyers this week as part of the Micam Americas Digital event and will show by appointment at the Magic Orlando pop-up and Atlanta Shoe Market. It is targeting independent retailers, better department stores and full-price websites. Tamaris will also launch a dedicated U.S. e-commerce site in August.

Tamaris Red Leather Bootie
Tamaris red leather booties featuring its comfort technology.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Tamaris

Feb. 1, 2021: Wolverine World Wide Inc. announced that it has signed a new deal making Gardiners Footwear Specialists the sole distributor for Sperry products in the U.K. This follows a three-year partnership with Zone Two Limited. Andy Hewat, senior brand director for the Sperry and Keds labels, said the move is part of Wolverine’s effort to accelerate digital growth across its portfolio. “Gardiners’ market expertise and knowledge paired with their strong independent salesforce will allow us to amplify the Sperry brand in an important international market and increase traffic to our Sperry UK eCommerce channel.” In addition to Sperry, Gardiners distributes dozens of other footwear brands, with a particular expertise in workwear.

Jan. 25, 2021: Rocky Brands Inc., best known for its rugged work and military boots, has added a new portfolio of labels to its roster. The Nelsonville, Ohio-based company — parent to Rocky, Georgia Boot and Durango —  announced it will acquire the performance and lifestyle footwear business from Honeywell International Inc. for $230 million in cash and debt. The purchase includes The Original Muck Boot Company, as well as the Xtratuf, Servus, Neos and Ranger boot brands.

More Deals You Might’ve Missed Last Year

Dec. 3, 2020: New Balance announced it has signed a multiyear sponsorship deal with FC Tokyo, which will start with the 2021 season. In a statement, the Boston-based athletic powerhouse said it will work with the team to deliver designs — including a bespoke offering for all technical kits and training apparel — and limited-edition retail product. Also, NB said the FC Tokyo product will be sold through its retail stores. According to New Balance, the sponsorship will help improve its growth plans for soccer across the continent and further its pursuit of becoming a top 3 global athletic brand.

Dec. 2, 2020: Spyder has joined forces with Footwear Unlimited. Through the partnership, the Authentic Brands Group-owned brand will release its debut shoe collection, which fuses elements of performance, function and fashion for the outdoors, hiking, trail, après ski and everyday activities. According to ABG’s SVP of sports, street and active groups, Wesley Chu, the launch “expands the brand’s year-round essentials for active consumers and presents an opportunity to gain a larger market share.” Prices will range from $90 to $300, and the collection will be available at select retailers, stores and on Spyder.com next fall.

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