Axios Pro: Retail Deals

January 25, 2022

Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Good morning, Retail readers! Welcome to Tuesday's edition.

🚨Activist investor Macellum Advisors is now pushing Kohl's to give it a board seat and to make a statement saying it is considering strategic alternatives. (Reuters)

Situational awareness: Today's newsletter features Goldman's view on the consumer-retail landscape, deal-related analysis of Peloton and Grove Collaborative, legal league tables and Birkenstocks. At the top and bottom.

1 big thing: Goldman's retail recipe

Birkenstock sandals. Photo: Getty Images

Global Data listed Goldman Sachs as the top financial adviser in 2021 for the retail sector by deal value, as our chart yesterday indicated.

  • Global Data credited Goldman with $39 billion worth of retail sector transactions. In 2nd place, JPMorgan ($30 billion); 3rd was Rothschild ($29 billion).

Details: Among the deals Goldman was involved with last year: LVMH's acquisition of Tiffany & Co.; L Brands' separation of Victoria's Secret; Hellman & Friedman's At Home buyout; Birkenstock's sale to LVMH-backed L Catterton.

What they're saying: Ben Frost, Goldman's global co-head of its consumer retail group, tells me that the turnaround in this sector is extraordinary when seeing where things stood in the industry in and around 2015.

Context: What changed? The pandemic.

  • “The pandemic forced companies to figure out omnichannel. Look at what restaurants have done, for example. They never would never have been that far along without the pandemic," Frost says.

Catch up fast: Experiential retail takes customers beyond just walking in a store, buying stuff, and walking out. If companies invest in the experience, consumers respond.

  • Van's downtown Los Angeles store is a two-floor, 11,500 square foot space that includes an art gallery, skate shop and art studio, for example.
  • Frost said: “There’s comfort around experiential retail. You have companies in this space that have gone from an afterthought, to a double-digit EBITDA valuation. They figured out a way to make visiting the store experiential. These companies changed their business models, and made it appealing to more customers and investors."

Be smart: Frost says looking ahead this year, there are three industry areas he'll be watching for consolidation: consumer services, convenience stores, and apparel.

Driving the news: Whether strategic buyers would be driving deals in the space versus private equity firms, Frost was unequivocal: private equity.

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