Axios Pro: Retail Deals

February 02, 2022

Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Good morning, Retail Readers! It's Groundhog Day, and for those looking ahead to spring, the news isn't great from Pennsylvania. Sorry.

Situational awareness: Party City, a distressed specialty retailer, was upgraded to a B- with a stable outlook by Fitch Ratings, another positive sign for the industry.

Of note: The theme of today's newsletter: the Great Outdoors.

1 big thing: Outside M&A

The Outdoor Retailer trade show returned last fall after a pandemic-induced hiatus. Photo: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Attendance was down at the Outdoor Retailer, according to Axios Denver's John Frank, who attended the annual event and reports on the challenges ahead for the industry.

  • Brands such as Patagonia and North Face skipped the trade show.
  • Cotopaxi, a Bain Capital portfolio company, generated some healthy buzz, Frank reports.
  • Overall, for 2021, the sector had plenty to celebrate with sales up 23% for the year ended November 2021 versus 2019, according to NPD Group.

Flashback: That growth sparked a surge of deal activity in the outdoor sector to more than double what it was in 2020, amounting to a total of 226 transactions, as tracked by SGB Online.

Yes, but: The industry faces plenty of headwinds.

What they're saying: Patrick Furlong, a director in Solomon Partners' consumer retail group, says a number of deals are preparing to launch in the first half of this year.

  • He notes that the record level of M&A across all industries makes 2022 a difficult comparable year and sporting goods in no exception.
  • Key trends include consumer demand for sustainability, plus heightened interest in lifestyle categories such as hunting and fishing, he adds.

What's next: Matt Powell, senior industry adviser for sports at NPD, tells me that acquisition targets in the space are brands that make one or two popular products really well but lack the capital to extend the business beyond that.

By the numbers: U.S. outdoor industry sales volume rose nearly 30% to $23.1 billion last year, according to NPD.

Of note: My colleague John also reported on his favorite items at the Outdoor Retailer. Check out the list.

The bottom line: "It's going to be a good but not great 2022 for sports retail," NPD's Powell said during a remote presentation.

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