What Is in Store for Reebok’s Future?

Heritage brands are tough to come by in the overly crowded athletic wear market, but Reebok could switch hands this year.

Last month Reebok’s parent company Adidas confirmed that it is exploring options for the brand, including a potential sale. Adidas expects to reveal its decision in time for its annual investor conference on March 10. At that time, the company’s official new strategy will be rolled out.

Reebok was acquired for $3.8 billion by Adidas in 2006. Last year, the German group reportedly pegged the value of the U.S. brand to just shy of $1 billion.

Asked for an update about the potential sale of Reebok, an Adidas spokesman declined comment Monday and referenced a two-week-old press release.

Before Adidas’ statement on the matter last month, there had been rumblings of the prospect of a Reebok spinoff for months.

The legendary former NBA-er Shaquille O’Neal told CNBC in October 2019 that he would love to buy the sneaker brand. The retired Los Angeles Laker knows Reebok well, having worked as brand ambassador during his pro basketball days in the Nineties. O’Neal’s partnership with the Authentic Brands Group could make that wish a reality. As reported in WWD, O’Neal inked a deal with ABG in 2015 to own and manage his intellectual property and expand his brand internationally.

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Last month a source close to ABG confirmed to WWD its interest in speaking with Adidas about potentially adding the brand to its stable. Along with Barneys New York and Brooks Brothers, ABG’s portfolio includes such sport-specific labels as Spyder, Greg Norman, Prince, Above the Rim, Hind and Volcom. Like O’Neal, Norman understands Reebok well since the former pro golfer has partnered with Reebok.

An ABG spokeswoman said Monday there are no updates but there is “still interest.”

VF Corp. is also said to be in the running, as is Anta Sports, the China-based parent company of Fila and Descente. VF, too, has a hearty amount of experience in the athletic and outdoor sectors through ownership of The North Face, Timberland and Vans. Asked whether VF executives have spoken with Adidas and/or Reebok officials about buying Reebok, a VF spokesman said Monday, “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation.”

In the third quarter of 2020, Reebok saw revenues slide. The brand posted a 7 percent decline in the three-month period and a 20 percent drop in nine months. Reebok continues to distribute its designs via brick-and-mortar stores, as well as online. Drastic declines in in-store shopping have been among the impacts of the coronavirus crisis. Conversely though, all around the globe WFHers are choosing sweatshirts, leggings, hoodies and other ultra casual looks more than ever.

Aligning with celebrities and social media influencers has been a go-to strategy for many athletic labels. Reebok’s numerous alliances have included Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Gigi Hadid and Victoria Beckham.

Like other athletic and apparel companies, Reebok has faced criticism from employees calling for greater representation of people of color. Supporters of the Adidas and Reebok Black community drafted a 32-page document requesting that Black people account for 31 percent of representation at the companies, among other things. Employees and management have each vowed to change the infrastructure, but whether they will agree on the end results will take some evaluation.

Kerby Jean-Raymond of fashion brand Pyer Moss has taken on a more prominent role at Reebok as vice president of creative direction. The New York-based designer has worked with the Boston-based company over the past four years, primarily as a collaborator. His new responsibilities include being at the forefront of Reebok’s Product with Purpose program, which is part of the company’s commitment to United Against Racism. The first products by Jean-Raymond are expected to be released next year.

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