Fanatics and Lids are investing in Barnes & Noble Education Inc. in a partnership that includes not only a financial component, but also serves to expand the product selection available on college campuses around the country.
In a deal unveiled Monday morning, Fanatics and Lids said they will make a $15 million strategic equity investment in BNED and in turn receive 2.3 million shares of common stock that represent a share price of $6.50 a share. BNED, a leading solutions provider for the education industry, said it will use the proceeds to further enhance its growth initiatives.
Under the terms of the deal, Fanatics will work with BNED’s campus stores to offer an expanded product selection of licensed fan and alumni products, and will operate its online licensed sports business. Lids, which Fanatics owns a 50 percent stake in, will work with BNED to manage the assortment and planning of the sports product for BNED’s 775 brick-and-mortar stores. The two brands have created a joint venture for this partnership.
BNED will remain responsible for staffing and managing the day-to-day operations of its campus bookstores.
“We are thrilled to partner with Fanatics and Lids to bring a best-of-breed retail and e-commerce experience to our schools, students and customers,” said Michael P. Huseby, chief executive officer and chairman of BNED. “This partnership has tremendous potential to improve the customer experience, increase selection and accelerate BNED’s growth across our high-margin general merchandise business, particularly in e-commerce, providing a significant opportunity to increase our financial contribution to campus partners. We will continue to do what BNED does best, and benefit from Fanatics’ and Lids’ strengths in e-commerce and merchandising to drive even more value for our campus partners. We will also be able to leverage a large and growing e-commerce platform to better cross-sell products and increase our market share, while realizing key technology and supply chain efficiencies. In addition to driving value for our shareholders and providing BNED additional liquidity to invest in growth, this alliance will help our university partners tailor their product offerings to better meet students’ needs.”
Michael Rubin, executive chairman of Fanatics, said the deal will allow his firm to “leverage our e-commerce 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.”
Fanatics has been the top-ranked provider of collegiate merchandise since 2018 and has existing partnerships with more than 150 universities to operate e-commerce and mobile store sites, and sells product for more than 500 schools on its e-commerce site. Lids operates more than 1,200 brick-and-mortar retail stores across North America.
Lawrence Berger, chairman of Lids, said, “Our team is excited to partner with BNED to bring innovative new products and marketing to its college partners, while maintaining the distinct local product assortments that make BNED campus shops so unique. Understanding the affinities of alumni, fans, and students is core to our success and aligning with BNED and its campus partners is an exciting new chapter for higher education.”
In August, Fanatics closed a $350 million Series E funding round that the company said would be used to accelerate its vertical commerce business.