The running list of major retail deals in 2021


From IPOs to acquisitions, here's the latest on some of the top deals retailers have announced this year.

Retail dive


Last year, several retailers inked deals in the form of partnerships, acquisitions and initial public offerings, among other things.

Retail Ecommerce Ventures snapped up the IPs of bankrupt retailers, including Pier 1, Modell's and Stein Mart. VF Corp — the owner of Vans, The North Face and Timberland — acquired cult-favorite streetwear label Supreme for $2.1 billion. And several companies went public, including DTC darling Casper, resale platform Poshmark and pet specialty retailer Petco.

In fact, IPOs across industries reached a two-decade high in 2020, reaching 407 — a 109% increase year over year, according to data from Trading Platforms. And while retail IPOs were off to a slow start at the beginning of the year, activity picked up in the back half, with eight companies filing for an IPO in the fourth quarter and total IPOs for the year hitting 12, according to FactSet.

But last year also saw the collapse of several deals as the pandemic rattled the industry. Private equity firm Sycamore Partners was set to acquire L Brands-owned Victoria's Secret in a $525 million deal, but following weeks of back-and-forth in court, the companies announced a "mutual termination" in May. And J. Crew and Gap Inc., which announced intents to spin off their well-performing Madewell and Old Navy banners, backed out of those plans.

Now, well into 2021, we're keeping an eye on — and tracking — the most important mergers, acquisitions, IPOs and other deals. Here's the running list of major deals thus far:


HBC WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: In a move meant to capitalize on the Saks Fifth Avenue brand and partake of rising online sales of luxury goods, private equity firm Insight Partners invested $500 million to help owner HBC spin off the department store's e-commerce business into a separate entity dubbed "Saks." HBC will retain full control of the brick-and-mortar business, whose 40 stores will operate separately as "SFA." The move appears to be largely financially motivated, as HBC said the deal (valued at $2 billion with Insight taking a minority stake) allows it "to unlock significant value within our company's assets." Customers will experience both as a single brand, "Saks Fifth Avenue," but it's unclear how the bifurcation could affect operations and customer experience. Plans are for Saks to develop a marketplace, a thorny issue for a luxury player, given the proliferation of fakes on such platforms.

Michaels' acquisition by Apollo Global Management


Michael WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Private equity firm Apollo Global Management plans to secure long-term debt to finance its proposed takeover of Michaels, which has seen sales of crafts materials, puzzles and games surge with people stuck at home during the pandemic. The retailer's board has unanimously endorsed the $5 billion offer and has 25 days to find a better one. But competition is stiff in this space, and Michaels requires further improvements to its operations, including its stores, making the debt a potential burden, according to GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders. High levels of debt and steep management fees under private equity ownership have previously interfered with many retail turnovers, leading several to the bankruptcy court.

ThredUp IPO


Threadup WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Secondhand apparel platform ThredUp announced it filed an S-1 with the SEC and listed the size of the offering as $100 million. The company applied to list on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol TDUP, and underwriters include Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. According to a company-issued report in 2020, the resale market is forecast to reach $44 billion by 2029, with 52% of consumers expected to spend more on secondhand fashion. ThredUp, which was founded in 2009, had 1.24 million active buyers and 428,000 active sellers at the time of its filing. UPDATES:

Estee WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Estée Lauder announced it would pay $1 billion for a controlling stake in beauty company Deciem in February, upping its ownership from 29% to 76%. Estée Lauder said it would purchase the remaining interest in Deciem after three years, with the price determined by Deciem's financial performance. The deal values Deciem at $2.2 billion, according to the companies. Estée Lauder first invested in the company, known for its skincare brand, The Ordinary, in 2017. For the past year, Deciem's six brands recorded total net sales of $460 million. The deal is expected to close by the end of June.


Joann's WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Joann's $100 million initial public offering could ultimately end up much larger than that. It comes as the crafting retailer and its private equity owners look to cash in on increased interest in sewing and crafts during the pandemic (not to mention a robust stock market). Bloomberg and Morning Consult data cited by Joann in its IPO papers shows 30% of Americans were sewing or repairing clothes during the pandemic. Joann estimates it has about a third of the sewing market, making it a leader in the category. After the deal, Joann would still be majority-owned by Leonard Green & Partners and remain heavily indebted.

Walmart's acquisition of Thunder's intellectual property

Walmart WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Walmart acquired the technology and intellectual property behind Thunder — an ad-tech solution focused on creative automation. The tech is part of a new self-serve display advertising platform the retailer plans to roll out later in 2021. The acquisition followed a revamp of Walmart's media network, including a name change from Walmart Media Group to Walmart Connect. The retailer is strategizing to become a "top ten advertising platform."

Staples' acquisition offer to Office Depot

Staple WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: This deal, a reprise of two previously failed attempts by these two office supplies retailers to merge, remains in flux, as Office Depot has rebuffed the $2.1 billion takeover offer from Sycamore Partners-owned Staples. Office Depot cited concerns that the Federal Trade Commission could once again frown upon them combining, though the company outlined ways things could go forward, including a joint venture or an acquisition limited to Office Depot's consumer-facing operations.

Amazon's acquisition of startup Selz

Amazon WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: After leaving this space five years ago and allowing firms like Shopify to dominate it, Amazon is now backtracking. Selz is a small Australian startup that, like Shopify, provides digital turnkey tools for smaller retailers to easily get into e-commerce. With so many consumers leery of shopping indoors, that became a must even for small and local shops during the pandemic, and all signs indicate that many customers will continue to expect to be able to order online even from mom and pops.

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