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DSW parent company buys Keds brand

Designer Brands has acquired the Keds brand.

Designer Brands Inc. has expanded its owned brands stable with the addition of an iconic sneaker brand.

The parent company of DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) has acquired Keds from Wolverine Worldwide Inc. The deal, in line with the footwear giant’s previously announced goal to double sales of owned brands by fiscal 2026, includes all Keds' products along with the brand's e-commerce business.

The acquisition expands Designer Brands’ owned-brands reach into casual and athleisure footwear, supplementing its recent additions of Le Tigre and Topo Athletic. The Keds acquisition is Designer Brands' first owned brand wholesale business within the kids’ footwear segment.

In addition, Wolverine announced that it intends to grant an exclusive license to Designer Brands for Hush Puppies footwear in the United States and Canada.  Designer Brands currently has a unique arrangement 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 customers.

“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,” said Brendan Hoffman, Wolverine Worldwide’s president and CEO. “We are confident this will place Wolverine on an accelerated path to improved profitability and long-term shareholder value creation. 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.”

Combined, the two transactions will generate total cash of over $90 million, with the proceeds used to pay down Wolverine’s debt and strengthen its capital structure.

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 DTC business. The licensing agreement is targeted to take effect later in 2023.

“Today's announcements serve as proof of both the incredible progress we have made on our strategy to double sales of our owned brands by 2026 as well as the ongoing benefits of our relationships with top national brands," said Roger Rawlins, who will step down as CEO of Designer Brands on April 1, succeeded by DSW president Doug Howe.

“This next phase in our Hush Puppies relationship is yet another example of how we are continuing to build on our existing owned brand strategy,” Rawlins added. “It will allow us to directly benefit from designing and sourcing product for the U.S. and Canadian markets."

Designer Brands is large designer, producer and retailers of footwear brands and accessories, including Vince Camuto. In addition to a billion-dollar e-commerce business, it operates nearly 650 stores across the U.S. and Canada under the DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse and The Shoe Company banners.

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