Authentic Brands Group’s President Is a ‘Big Believer’ in Physical Stores — and the Metaverse

Nick Woodhouse doesn’t discriminate when it comes to shopping channels. As the president and chief marketing officer of Authentic Brands Group, the company behind dozens of brand and retailer acquisitions, the executive is focused on driving powerful relationships with consumers — wherever they choose to shop.

“To me, retail just means anytime a consumer puts something in a bag,” Woodhouse said during a Tuesday session at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show this week. “It could be a paper bag, a plastic bag, a virtual bag — any type of bag.”

As such, the owner of Forever 21, Barneys New York, J.C. Penney, Reebok and Ted Baker is no stranger to newer sales channels, such as the metaverse. In December 2021, Forever 21 launched an exclusive partnership with Virtual Brand Group, a metaverse creation company, that allows users to buy and sell Forever 21 merchandise and customize their own stores on the Roblox video game platform. Authentic also operates a robust digital business across its array of brands.

“It’s not a huge transaction in revenue for us,” Woodhouse said of its metaverse presence. “But it is huge in terms of being in there and capturing the hearts and minds of younger consumers.”

The company also balances a focus on physical retail with its digital growth.

“We are a big believer in brick-and-mortar stores,” Woodhouse said. He explained that both physical stores and online shopping channels are necessary to meet shoppers in different channels — and to tell a brand’s story, something Authentic relies on when it revamps the images of its struggling brands.

Authentic’s roster of brands also includes ownership rights to the personal brands of Muhammad Ali, Shaquille O’Neal, Marilyn Monroe and David Beckham’s global brand. Still, a significant percentage of the company’s sales come from apparel and footwear, which Woodhouse said made analysts skeptical when the company was considering going public in 2021.

Woodhouse waved these concerns aside.

“We’re all wearing clothes. And God willing, 50 years from now we’re all going to be wearing clothes and our descendants are going to be wearing clothes,” he said. “We’re all gonna wear shoes. So there’s nothing wrong with the apparel business, there’s nothing wrong with the footwear business. It’s just a matter of being ahead of the curve. And making sure that you can you can deliver that to the consumer.”

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