The deal broadens the outdoor and performance brand’s presence across Japan and increases its lifestyle apparel and accessories offerings for men, women and children. Itochu will partner with Mizujin, a fashion wholesale and retail firm, to manufacture and distribute Eddie Bauer products. Together, they will open new freestanding stores, expand shop-in-shop locations and specialty accounts, and relaunch Eddie Bauer’s official Japanese e-commerce site next spring.
“We are pleased to grow the Eddie Bauer brand in this important market and to expand on ABG’s relationship with Itochu,” Jarrod Weber, ABG’s group president lifestyle and chief brand officer, said. “Through the agreement, Itochu becomes a marquee partner for Eddie Bauer as we further the global strategy across strategic markets and engage with outdoor enthusiasts around the world.”
“Eddie Bauer is a pioneering American heritage brand known for quality products, performance technology and style,” Yoshinari Nakamura, Mizujin’s president, added. “Our aim is to build on Eddie Bauer’s strong foundation and rich heritage to enhance its presence in the Japanese outdoor and fashion markets.”
Eddie Bauer has had a presence in Japan for nearly three decades and captured a loyal following. Best known for its performance products, technical fabrics and athlete-tested gear, Eddie Bauer is credited for revolutionizing the outdoor experience when it launched the down puffer jacket.
ABG and its SPARC co-owner Simon Property Group acquired the outdoor brand in June 2021 from PSEB, the subsidiary that private equity juggernaut Golden Gate Capital formed in 2018 to merge the heritage outdoor brand it purchased in 2009 with Pacific Sunwear. Golden Gate acquired the Eddie Bauer business in July 2009 with a $286 million cash bid that beat out seven other bidders in a bankruptcy court auction. Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy court protection in June 2009 after the Great Recession of 2008 left it unable to pay its debts. The filing was its second in six years.
There was a time when Eddie Bauer struggled to find its footing when its reliance on mall stores sent operating costs spiraling. It saw a resurgence in popularity during the Covid pandemic as consumers shifted to outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and trail running once quarantine restrictions lifted. A wide variety of the brand’s merchandise also has been available at up to 500 Kohl’s Corp. doors and the department store retailer’s website since Fall 2021. Eddie Bauer has a key role in Kohl’s strategy as the go-to destination for consumers leading an active lifestyle. The brand also expanded in children’s home textiles and is chasing the sustainably minded customer.