Private equity firm Brentwood Associates has taken a majority stake in direct marketer Soft Surroundings, a lifestyle fashion, accessories and home furnishings company.
Terms of the transaction, such as the investment amount, were not disclosed.
Tom Wilcher, chief executive officer, and Robin Sheldon, president, will remain with the company and continue expanding the brand in both direct and retail channels.
Grant Williams, co-founder and majority shareholder of Soft Surroundings, said, “Brentwood’s expertise and successful record in the direct-to-consumer and retail sectors will prove to be a huge asset in expanding our brand.”
Eric Reiter, partner with Brentwood Associates, said his firm favors the direct-to-consumer companies. The attraction of Soft Surroundings is that its core female customer is educated and affluent, and consequently willing to spend on discretionary items.
“These businesses perform better in a downturn and when there’s a recovery, they really perform well,” Reiter noted.
He said that while a retail presence is not a preqrequesite for an investment by Brentwood, the ability to have and grow a retail strategy does make a potential opportunity more attractive. Soft Surroundings is in the early stages of a rollout strategy, Reiter said.
“We think a lot of customers want to touch and feel the product. Retail can grow a business and provide scaleabilty. There are constraints on the ultimate growth of a firm when it’s just a catalog [business],” Reiter said.
Prior apparel investments by Los Angeles-based Brentwood include equestrian brand Ariat International and Westeran apparel firm Filson Holdings, both of which were exited earlier this year. Brentwood currently holds Sundance Catalog, the company founded by Robert Redford in 1989 and includes Sundance Cinemas and Sundance Resort. Brentwood also has a stake in teen specialty retailer Zumiez, which it took public in 2005.
Lee Helman, a managing director at Financo Inc., whose firm advised Soft Surroundings, said that the company is unique in that while other firms try to reach a younger consumer, “Soft Surroundings is highly focused on its core 45-to-65 year old consumer, with outstanding product across home decor, beauty, apparel and accessories in a holistic way.”
Helman said the company, which has spent the past four years finetuning its retail store strategy, could open another five to ten more stores in 2013. The average size of the stores are between 4,500 to 5,000 square feet.
Soft Surroundings currently operates six stores, and has three more opening in the fall.