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Jos. A. Banks Buys Eddie Bauer

02/14/2014

blog-Eddie-Bauer-presentationThe once venerable Eddie Bauer brand is being footballed again. Eddie Bauer, who’s had more owners and CEO’s than Bruce Jenner’s has had cosmetic surgery, has been acquired by men’s clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank.

Bank’s, another great brand that has lost its way, acquired EB not because it was good for their business, but to stave off acquisition from the dreaded Men’s Wearhouse.

Jos. A. Bank will pay $564 million in cash and issue about 4.7 million new shares at $56 each to an affiliate of Golden Gate Capital, the ultimate parent of Eddie Bauer.

What has happened to these once strong brands?

I worked for Eddie Bauer straight out of college. EB was owned by General Mills at that time. Back then EB carried a complete range of hard lines – cross-country skis, sleeping bags, packs, cook stoves, etc. I was proud to be affiliated with the Eddie Bauer brand. In the outdoor world EB was the western giant and Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) was the eastern force. At that time REI was a sleepy co-op with 9 stores. Today EB and EMS are barely relevant while REI has excelled.

Retail brands owned by venture funds or capital groups often face a big time challenge. They are usually led by non-retailers. What’s wrong with that picture? Additionally the board of directors is typically salted with two members from the fund firm. These members focus on ROI not brand-building, customer relationships and the long view.

That said I can’t til next winter when I can buy one down jacket and get two free!

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