Sunday, June 23, 2024

Outdoor Voices acquired by Consortium Brand Partners following store closures and layoffs

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Activewear brand Outdoor Voices, the direct-to-consumer darling that shuttered all 16 of its retail stores in March, has been acquired by private equity firm Consortium Brand Partners, according to a press release.

Financial terms were not disclosed, and Outdoor Voices will continue to sell exclusively online. There are no immediate plans to reopen retail stores, but CBP is bullish on brick-and-mortar retail. 

“When it comes to community-based brands and businesses, having a bit of a hub where people can meet, touch and feel the product, and engage with store associates, is an important part of the storytelling,” CBP Managing Partner Cory Baker told Fortune.

This marks CBP’s second acquisition, after it bought a 70% stake in actress Reese Witherspoon’s fashion brand, Draper James, in September.

CBP is led by Baker, Michael DeVirgilio and Jonathan Greller, veterans of holding company Marquee Brands, whose portfolio companies include BCBG Max Azria, Ben Sherman, and Martha Stewart.

The deal also puts an end to a monthslong saga that saw Outdoor Voices—once valued at $110 million—close all its brick-and-mortar stores, lay off dozens of employees, and shift to selling exclusively online. Sourcing Journal reported in March that the brand had plans to file for bankruptcy.

CBP was attracted to Outdoor Voices’ strong community and unique positioning in an industry heavily focused on performance athletes, Baker said in an interview on Friday.

“This was always a brand that spoke differently about getting outdoors and enjoying the sun and enjoying the community,” he said. “And that really called to us as something relevant and authentic and resistant to trend.”

The rise and fall of OV

Founded by millennial entrepreneur Ty Haney in 2013, Outdoor Voices spent the next few years riding the direct-to-consumer wave and earning a cult following—the company was valued at $110 million by 2018. In 2020, Haney was pushed out after clashing with executives, and a string of departures followed. The brand’s valuation fell to $40 million that year. 

But the brand maintained its strong fanbase, who appreciated its bold aesthetic and community-based approach to fitness. In June 2020, entrepreneur Ashley Merrill joined Outdoor Voices as its board chair after her venture capital firm NaHCO3 made an investment of an undisclosed size in the company. Merrill invested more in late 2023, and became the de facto CEO of the company, according to Puck.

In March, Outdoor Voices announced the closure of all 16 of its retail stores, with only five days’ notice. One former retail employee told Fortune in March that they were “blindsided” by the news, while another called it “a slap to the face.”

The company also laid off an estimated 80% of its corporate workforce, including the entire HR, brand, and design teams, three former employees told Fortune. Outdoor Voices and Merrill disabled comments on their Instagram accounts following the closures, while fans and former employees took to Reddit to lament the lack of transparency.

“This was a classic story of a company who had too many expenses and too much debt,” Baker told Fortune. “And at some point, even if your sales are good, it’s hard to keep up when you have to service debt and you have to service bad leases.”

‘A new day’

The company has reinstated some former employees who were furloughed in March, and more conversations are underway. Ashley Merrill is no longer involved with Outdoor Voices, Baker confirmed, while Katie Siano continues in her role as the company’s president.

Although CBP hasn’t revealed how much money it’s putting into Outdoor Voices, Baker said it is now “in the healthiest financial position it’s ever been in.” With a growth strategy and expansion plan in place, Outdoor Voices is focusing on product, community engagement, and getting back to its roots.

In three years, he predicted OV will be bigger, healthier, and carry more product categories that are “relevant and natural.”

“I think the fanbase has to be spoken to,” Baker said. “It’s a new day, it’s a bright day, and it’s not the same company that’s had to make challenging choices.”

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