By  on January 30, 2012

Amid private equity chatter, Collective Brands Inc. is adding five licenses to its Sperry Top-Sider brand, allowing it to expand beyond footwear.

The deals, which have been inked with swimwear manufacturer Manhattan Beachwear Inc., hosiery firm Renfro Corp., handbag and belt maker Tandy Brands Inc., scarf and glove vendor Interbrand LLC and U.S. Continental, a leather and shoe care firm, will give rise to new collections in spring 2013.

Additional deals are pending with other partners for eyewear and watches, the company said, adding that clothing isn’t far off either.

“The first wave of our strategy is to really go after accessories,” Sperry president Craig Reingold told WWD. “Down the road, we will move into apparel.”

Acquired by Collective in August of 2007, Sperry is known for its boat shoes, which it launched when the company was founded in 1935. Since joining Collective, the brand has experienced “accelerated growth,” adding other nautical-inspired footwear, such as boots and sandals, according to the brand, which declined to provide financials.

“These initiatives are critical next steps for Sperry Top-Sider as we aim to connect more broadly with our target consumer and continue our mission to create the leading nautical performance and lifestyle brand across the globe,” said Gregg Ribatt, chief executive officer of Collective’s performance and lifestyle group, which oversees the brand.

Currently, Sperry has 14 stores and is carried in outlets and premium lifestyle department stores. By the end of fiscal 2012, it’s slated to grow its doors to 20.

But Collective, which swung to a third-quarter net loss of $114.3 million, or $1.91 a share versus year-ago income of $47.6 million, or 75 cents a share, has been weighed down by its Payless and Stride Rite chains.

The firm, which also owns Saucony and Keds, said in November that it plans to shutter 475 Payless and Stride Rite doors by the end of 2013. Costs connected to those closures will total between $25 million and $30 million.

Last week, there was speculation that Collective could be wrapping up its first round of bidding, with Wolverine Worldwide Inc. or Skechers USA Inc. leading the pack as potential suitors.

Sperry declined to comment on how a potential sale could impact its business.

“What I love about the people we are partnering with is that they are the best at what they do,” Reingold said, rerouting the conversation back to the licensing deals. “The product will be nautically inspired. What is so special about our brand is that it’s about a life and a lifestyle that we are creating.

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