Even the famously single Carrie Bradshaw, who had an affinity for Jimmy Choo’s shoes on the TV show Sex and the City, never saw this coming.
It’s been merger mania among titans in the handbag and shoe industry all summer, as a trio of high-profile deals will alter the industry.
First, Coach — known for luxury handbags and accessories — announced June 23 it was teaming up with Kate Spade, also known for luxury handbags.
Then, on July 25, Michael Kors, famous for handbags and watches, among other items, sealed the deal with Jimmy Choo, famous for luxury shoes and accessories.
On Aug. 2, it was the Canadian shoe maven Aldo’s turn to unveil its partnership with Vince Camuto and its line of designer shoes, handbags, and clothing.
Retail analysts say the pairings make a lot of sense and are strategic. Michael Kors and Coach, for instance, have closed hundreds of stores and are working to pull their merchandise from failing department stores.
“With all the retail Armageddon rhetoric, it is clear that the landscape has changed, and retailers and brands will need to evaluate how best to survive the carnage,” said analyst Simeon Siegel of Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York. “One such way could be to pool resources,” especially to save costs.
Others say the recent deals are part of the wave of consolidations as the retail industry “right-sizes” itself with the closings of brick-and-mortar stores and the rise of e-commerce.
“In the Amazon world, the big grow bigger,” Siegel said. “It is understandable that companies are fighting to become `big.’ ”
While there are risks, like higher debt for the buyers, “there is also a benefit of having a diversified portfolio of brands [just as in stocks], and a period of weakness for one can be potentially subsidized by strength at the other,” Siegel said. At the same time, many retail consolidations “have failed under the burden of the heavy debt load” needed to fund the deals.
Still, Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics said that given the pressures of changing consumer spending habits and the general lack of discretionary income from health care, housing, and student loan costs, retail managements have no choice but to look for solutions to stem the tide of sluggish growth.
Mergers “can in some cases create synergies and lower costs due to increased scale,” Perkins said. “Merger ideas are often peddled by investment banks to company managements as a means to grow and boost share prices.”
Kate Spade, for example, put itself up for sale by most reports in late 2016 even though it had posted double-digit comparable sales growth in 2015, and a 9.3 percent growth in 2016. An activist investor reportedly urged the company to sell itself as handbag and accessories sales were slipping in 2016 and looked to have continued that trend in 2017.
Retail mergers “can drive down sourcing costs,” Perkins said. “With the number of bankruptcies and store closures wreaking havoc on the retail landscape this year, size and scale have become an even bigger consideration.”
Consumers could see lower prices on some products, say analysts, but they will also have fewer channels and designs to choose from in the short run.
Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates Inc. in New York, who counsels national retailers, said the three recent deals may have gotten their cue from Coach’s buying the women’s super-luxury shoe company Stuart Weitzman two years ago.
“That was the beginning because [Weitzman’s] shoes are as expensive as Jimmy Choo’s,” he said. “Stuart was in markets different from Coach’s. Businesses with a lot of money — such as Michael Kors, which generates over $1 billion in annual cash — want to move their businesses in a positive direction. Shoes go with accessories. These acquisitions make sense because the merchandise goes together.”
Another case in point: Aldo, which serves a more middle-of-the-road shopper, can now piggyback off Vince Camuto’s luxury clients.
Industry observers say Jimmy Choo and Kate Spade are solidly profitable and each now has a new partner. So “it’s a win-win,” Davidowitz said.
Tamara Solano, 19, of Levittown, a die-hard Michael Kors fan who buys only his handbags, said she’s all for partnering with Jimmy Choo.
“Jimmy Choo is definitely too expensive for me” at the moment, she said while walking through Oxford Valley Mall last weekend. “But I would look if they are in Michael Kors stores.”
Same with Chaz Klein, 26, of South Philly, who loves Aldo merchandise but has never bought the Vince Camuto brand.
“They’re too pricey for me,” Klein said during his lunch break Friday while perusing the Aldo next door to Michael Kors on the 1700 block of Walnut Street in Center City. “Aldo is reasonably priced but cool. I just hope Aldo’s prices don’t go up” after the merger.