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Fanatics & Lids Reach Long-Term Deal With BNED

The sports merchandise company Fanatics has added to its long list of critical deals in 2020 with a long-term merchandising partnership with Barnes & Noble Education Inc. (BNED), the campus store division of the Barnes & Noble parent company.

Fanatics will offer BNED campus stores an expanded product selection and a direct-to-consumer platform. Fanatics’ partly-owned Lids will also provide BNED trend and sales performance data on licensees, product styles and design treatments from more than 1,200 Lids stores. As well, Fanatics and Lids will jointly make a $15 million strategic equity investment in BNED and receive 2.3 million shares of BNED in exchange, representing a share price of $6.50 per share. BNED expects to use these proceeds for its strategic growth initiatives.

BNED is a college retailer that was spun off from bookseller Barnes & Noble in 2015, and operates official stores at major universities including Harvard, the University of Michigan, Penn State and UNC.

Fanatics already has existing partnerships with more than 150 universities to operate ecommerce and mobile stores, while it also sells college merchandise for more than 500 schools via its own online shop. Lids operates more than 1,200 brick-and-mortar stores.

“This partnership has tremendous potential to improve the customer experience, increase selection and accelerate BNED’s growth,” said Michael Huseby, CEO of BNED.

The new partnership with BNED is the latest in a series of rapid-fire investments made by Fanatics this year. The company $350 million Series E funding round in August that valued the company at about US$6.2 billion. Earlier this month Fanatics acquired one of its chief rivals, the highly successful sports merchandise manufacturer WinCraft, and in September the company purchased assets from licensed sports apparel company Vetta Brands.

As well, in 2018 Fanatics partnered with Ames Watson Capital in a joint venture to acquire Lids from then-owner Genesco.

“We look forward to partnering with BNED and Lids to bring our revolutionary approach to the licensed sports business to hundreds of universities across the country,” said Fanatics executive chairman and founder Michael Rubin. “Looking ahead, we are eager to leverage our ecommerce expertise and channel leadership in licensed merchandise to enhance the consumer experience across BNED’s campus stores, while driving growth and revenue for both BNED and its school partners.

“We are confident that this alliance will be a key differentiator in the education market, with our combined connectivity helping to drive new BNED campus partnerships to the benefit of students, faculty, and educational institutions.”

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