Wolverine World Wide Inc. today said that it has acquired global fitness and lifestyle brand Sweaty Better in an all-cash transaction valued at $410 million. The brand, which is based in London, is on a mission to empower women with its size and race-inclusive message.
“Sweaty Betty aligns perfectly with our strategic growth plan for Wolverine Worldwide, as we focus on growing digital channels, expanding our international footprint, and building our brand portfolio beyond footwear,” said Brendan Hoffman, president of Wolverine Worldwide. “Sweaty Betty’s expertise and focus on apparel, female consumers, and best-in-class digital execution has proven to be a winning combination. We are excited to support the brand’s continued growth while learning from its digital-first mindset and leveraging that strength across our portfolio.”
Wolverine Worldwide operates one of the world’s largest portfolios of footwear and lifestyle brands. “It’s what attracted me to Wolverine,” said Hoffman said. “Sweaty Betty stretches who we are. Hiring me to be the next CEO stretches who Wolverine is. Sweaty Betty is more fashion and apparel-driven.” Hoffman was referring to his experience as a retailer as president and CEO of Bon Ton Group and prior to that, president and CEO of Lord & Taylor.
Keds, Hush Puppies, Merrell, Saucony, Stride Rite Sperry, Harley-Davidson
Sweaty Betty this year will do $350 million in sales, Hoffman said, adding that the business has more than doubled since 2019.
“We know we need to think direct-to-consumer first, and beyond footwear,” Hoffman said. “We’re doing it organically and through mergers and acquisitions. Sweaty Betty is a standalone company unlike our last big acquisition, which was a carve-out from Payless.”
Hoffman said integrating Sweaty Betty into Wolverine Worldwide will involve creating co-branded products with the activewear label and WWW’s brands. “For sure, we’re going to look to do collaborations together,” he said. “A Merrell collaboration was underway and happening prior to this acquisition. Saucony, Keds, Merrell, we’ll cross-pollinate through collaborations.”
“The acquisition of Sweaty Betty complements our strategic shift over the last several years from a traditional footwear wholesaler into a consumer-obsessed, digital-focused growth company. It also gives us a leadership position in the growing women’s activewear category,” said Blake W. Krueger, Wolverine’s chairman and CEO. “Wolverine Worldwide has a long and successful track record of acquiring and building brands, including performance brands like Sweaty Betty.”
“I’d be excited it we were just the financial sponsor, knowing their growth trajectory, and us bringing to bear our capabilities in footwear and retail, we’re a $2.5 billion company. We would be excited if they were just leaning into us and bringing apparel into our brands.”
Sweaty Betty’s CEO Julia Straus, will continue to lead the brand and will report to Hoffman. “Sweaty Betty has seen incredible growth over the past few years, and we’re excited to further accelerate this growth as part of the Wolverine Worldwide family,” said Straus. “From the moment I met the team at Wolverine Worldwide, I knew they were the right partner to support us in the next chapter. Their portfolio of purpose-driven heritage brands, knowledge and expertise in building performance brands, robust international distribution, and supply chain expertise provides a strong platform to expand Sweaty Betty and further our mission to ‘empower more women through fitness all over the world’.”
Stores are on Hoffman and Strau’s radar. “Sweaty Betty had stores in Greenwich, Conn., Manhattan and other cities, but opportunistically closed them during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Hoffman said. “This is a terrific opportunity with a blind slate to go and build up the store portfolio. Stores are definitely top-of-mind for Julia and for Wolverine.
“The digital business continues to grow by leaps and bounds,” Hoffman added. Sweaty Betty also has a strategic partnership with Nordstrom
Hoffman said Wolverine will help Sweaty Betty expand into other product categories. We’re going to bring Sweaty Betty footwear to life,” he said. “They want to expand into other categories, including Sweaty Betty footwear. It’s exciting to add these capabilities with a young exciting brand that checks so many boxes. All the notes I’m receiving from people in the industry further instill us with such joy and confidence of what this should be.”