Designer Brands acquires Keds from Wolverine, inks new Hush Puppies licensing deal
Designer Brands Inc. announced on Wednesday it has acquired footwear brands Keds from Wolverine Worldwide, in addition to inking a new licensing deal with the footwear giant's Hush Puppies brand for the U.S. and Canada.
The transaction includes all Keds' products, including Pro-Keds, as well as the brand's e-commerce business, according to a press release from the owner of footwear retailer, DSW.
The deal expands Designer Brands' 'Owned Brands' category, as it forays into casual and athleisure footwear in the direct-to-consumer and wholesale channels, supplementing the recent additions of Le Tigre and Topo Athletic. The acquisition also marks Designer Brands' first Owned Brand wholesale business within the kids footwear segment.
"Our growing strength in Owned Brands is evident, given that just twelve months ago, the athleisure category was a massive white space opportunity for us, and we now control high-quality brands across multiple price points," said Doug Howe, incoming chief executive officer and president of DSW.
"Our acquisition of Keds, which has an important presence in the athleisure space, is particularly exciting as it is an iconic brand with broad appeal for our customers and their families that gives us the potential to explore new opportunities both online and internationally."
In addition to the Keds sale, Designer Brands said it is working to finalize an agreement to become the exclusive licensee for the Hush Puppies brand in the U.S. and Canada, extending its current deal with Wolverine that began in 2022, naming DSW as the exclusive in-store distributor of Hush Puppies in the U.S, while also serving as a physical return center for HushPuppies.com customers.
The new licensee relationship will grant exclusivity of the Hush Puppies brand to Designer Brands across all channels in the U.S. and Canada including potential wholesaling of the brand and management of the HushPuppies.com DTC business. The licensing agreement is targeted to take effect later in 2023.
“Selling Keds and licensing the Hush Puppies brand for the United States and Canada is an important step as we continue to advance our strategy to simplify the portfolio and direct resources to our growth brands. We are confident this will place Wolverine on an accelerated path to improved profitability and long-term shareholder value creation,” said Brendan Hoffman, Wolverine Worldwide’s president and chief executive officer.
“We are particularly pleased to have reached this agreement with Designer Brands, a longtime retail partner of ours and a natural fit to guide the iconic Keds brand into its next phase.
Wolverine first disclosed its intention to divest its Keds brand in mid-December.