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The Biggest M&A Deals in the Footwear & Fashion Industry in 2021

While many would-be acquirers stayed on the sidelines during the height of the pandemic, the mergers-and-acquisitions market heated up in 2021, thanks to powerhouse brands and retailers expanding their reach into fast-growing markets.

Much of the action was centered around the hot athletic lifestyle and athleisure spaces.

In the case of Wolverine World Wide Inc., acquiring Sweaty Betty gave the shoe giant a stake in the fast-growing and competitive women’s activewear category, which is led by high-growth brands like Lululemon.

No deal is generating more buzz than Authentic Brand Group’s forthcoming acquisition of Reebok for $2.1 billion. (It’s expected to become official in the first quarter of 2022.) Here are the other M&A dealmakers that made waves in 2021.

Alpargatas S.A.

The Brazilian company behind Havaianas in December scooped up a 49.9% stake in sustainable footwear brand Rothy’s. In a two-step transaction, Alpargatas will invest $200 million in primary capital followed by an offering to acquire approximately $275 million of Rothy’s shares from current stockholders, resulting in a post-investment valuation of $1 billion.

BBC International

When bankrupt Sequential Brands Group looked to offload its Heelys brand in April, there was one natural home — BBC. The company had been Sequential’s licensing partner since 2013, and now president Seth Campbell and CEO Josue Solano are looking to take it to the next level, as the company also fuels big gains with Champion and onboards its new license with Land’s End.

Crocs

In late December, Crocs Inc. announced that it entered into a deal to acquire the privately owned footwear brand Hey Dude. The deal is valued at $2.5 billion and expected to close in Q1 of 2022. The deal represents Crocs’ largest acquisition to date and is meant to help Crocs diversify its portfolio and build upon Crocs’ already strong digital penetration.

Elan Polo

Bankrupt Sequential Brands Group continued its divesting spree and sold its 65% stake in skate player DVS Footwear to Elan Polo.

Fleet Feet

Fleet Feet acquired JackRabbit from affiliates of CriticalPoint Capital in November. The transaction includes all JackRabbit brick-and-mortar locations, which spans 15 states, as well as the Jackrabbit.com e-commerce business. The deal is expected to close in early December. JackRabbit was founded in 2011 as the Running Specialty Group, the specialty running store consolidation effort by The Finish Line, and was acquired in 2017 by affiliates of CriticalPoint Capital.

Foot Locker

As it continues to capitalize on the athletic boom within its core business, industry stalwart Foot Locker Inc., led by CEO Dick Johnson, pulled off big buys to expand its reach. The retailer made a pair of power moves in August when it revealed plans to acquire community-focused chain WSS for $750 million and high-end Japanese player Atmos for $360 million.

Galaxy Universal

In late October, Galaxy Universal LLC announced that it will acquire Sequential’s active brand portfolio, which includes the And1, Avia, Gaiam and SPRI brands. The deal, which is valued at close to $330 million, is expected to close by mid-November and is subject to court approval.

JD Sports

British giant JD Sports isn’t shy about its intentions to be a huge player in America. The company, which has been steering Finish Line since 2018, kicked off 2021 with its acquisition of Baltimore-based DTLR Villa LLC in a deal worth about $495 million. That came on the heels of its $325 million Shoe Palace buy.

Jessica Simpson

Jessica Simpson and her mother Tina Simpson officially re-acquired full ownership of The Jessica Simpson Lifestyle Brand in December. Sequential bought the majority share from Camuto Group in 2015 but filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August. In September, the singer opened up to FN about buying back her business as she and Tina were in the midst of negotiations with Sequential Brands Group Inc. At the time they owned 37.5% of the brand they founded in 2005.

Lanvin Group

The newly rebranded Lanvin Group beefed up its luxury holdings with its second Italian acquisition, snapping up storied footwear specialist Sergio Rossi — and plotting an expansion drive in Asia. Its portfolio now includes French house Lanvin, Austrian hosiery specialist Wolford, Italian menswear company Caruso and American fashion brand St. John.

Lancer Capital

Lancer took Iconix Brand Group private in an all-cash deal for $3.15 a share, which totals $585 million including debt. Iconix owns Starter, Candie’s, London Fog, Umbro, Zoo York, Ocean Pacific and other brands.

L Catterton

Birkenstock sold a majority stake to the American-French private equity firm L Catterton and an affiliated firm, Financière Agache, Bernard Arnault’s family investment company. For weeks, Birkenstock had been in exclusive talks with L Catterton, and the deal was said to value the firm at 4 billion euros, or about $4.8 billion.

Nike

As it continues to drive digital and DTC, Nike Inc. acquired data integration platform Datalogue. Founded in 2016 , the proprietary machine-learning technology automates data preparation and integration. Nike now has the ability to integrate data from all sources — including its app ecosystem, supply chain and enterprise data.

In December, Nike also acquired RTFKT, a digital creator of virtual sneakers, collectibles and accessories. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Nordstrom

The 120-year-old retailer has been redefining the idea of partnership — and one of its most out-of-the-box moves this year was to acquire a minority stake in the Topshop brands — through an expanded partnership with London-based Asos. Now the department store is looking to take the Topshop brands to the next level, both in-store and online, and grow its presence with other Asos brands too.

Rocky Brands

The Ohio boot maker made a notable buy with its acquisition of the performance and lifestyle business from Honeywell International Inc. for $230 million. Now under its umbrella is the Original Muck Boot Company, as well as the Xtratuf, Servus, Neos and Ranger boot brands.

Sean John

Sean “Diddy” Combs bought back his streetwear brand, Sean John, in December via a $7.5 million bid. He initially launched the brand in 1998 and sold a majority stake to Global Brands Group in 2016. The North American Arm of Global Brands Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July and began seeking out ways to sell off its assets, including the Sean John brand.

Shoe Carnival

In early December, Shoe Carnival bought the independent retailer Shoe Station in a $67 million cash deal, whih marked Shoe Carnival’s first-ever acquisition. Shoe Carnival will now own and operate Shoe Station’s 21 locations across five Southeastern states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana. With the addition of these units, the company expects to surpass 400 stores by the end of 2022 and will be on a path to double-digit new store growth in the years ahead, according to a statement.

Wolverine World Wide

In a pivotal year for Wolverine, the company snapped up fitness lifestyle brand Sweaty Betty in an all-cash deal valued at about $410 million. The move represents Wolverine’s commitment to e-commerce, a priority for Brendan Hoffman, who is set to assume the role of CEO from longtime leader Blake Krueger at the end of the year. It also gives Wolverine a stake in the fast-growing and competitive women’s activewear category.

What Else We’re Watching:

ABG & Reebok: When Reebok officially becomes part of ABG’s rapidly growing portfolio early next year, where will the storied brand go next?

Square & Afterpay: In the booming buy-now-pay-later space, Square is expected to officially bring Afterpay under its umbrella in the first quarter of 2022.

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