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Footwear giant Wolverine buys Athleta, Lululemon competitor Sweaty Betty

Wolverine Worldwide Inc. is jumping into the premium women’s activewear apparel market.

The owner of Merrell, Keds, Saucony, Sperry, Stride Rite and other footwear brand has acquired Sweaty Betty from private equity firm L Catterton for $410 million. The deal, which closed on Aug. 2, was funded by cash and a revolving line of credit.

Founded in 1998 and based in London, the digitally native, vertically integrated Sweaty Betty sells a wide range of women’s activewear, ranging from leggings and sports bras to yoga apparel and bike shorts, as well as some women’s apparel and accessories. The brand sells directly through its website and also operates 65 stores in the U.K. and Asia. In 2018, Nordstrom became its exclusive U.S. partner. 

Sweaty Betty is known for innovative prints, combining fitness and style with technical high-performance fabrics and for the use of responsibly sourced materials.

The acquisition comes as Wolverine has been making a strategic shift during the past several years from a traditional footwear wholesaler into a digital-focused growth company. It also gives the company an anchor in the fast-growing women’s activewear category. 

“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 and incoming CEO. “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.”

Sweaty Betty 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 are 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 of Sweaty Betty. 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’.”

The founders of Sweaty Betty, Tamara and Simon Hill-Norton, also released a statement.

“We founded Sweaty Betty in 1998 with the purpose to empower women through fitness, and today we are delighted to have found the right partner in Wolverine Worldwide, a company that is perfectly positioned to support the acceleration of our mission,” they said.

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