Family-owned Birkenstock is in advanced talks to sell the nearly 250-year-old German footwear brand to a European private equity firm for $4.8 billion, Bloomberg reported Monday.
CVC Capital Partners already owns Swiss watch brand Breitling and German beauty retailer Douglas, according to the report.
CVC declined to comment. Birkenstock didn't immediately return a request for comment.
Consumers have been gravitating to more comfortable footwear for a while, but the pandemic has accelerated that, with The NPD Group last week reporting that "brands like UGG, Crocs, and Birkenstock were bright spots in an otherwise tough year for footwear."
Birkenstock opened its first company-owned U.S. store three years ago, saying it was focused on growth in the region. The comfy leather sandal followed a trajectory also taken by L.L. Bean's iconic boot in recent years. Long a bohemian favorite, Birkenstock has expanded its following as fashionistas also increasingly slipped into them and as it added a wider variety of finishes and styles to its otherwise fairly limited assortment.
The company made waves five years ago when it pulled sales from Amazon, citing counterfeit concerns.
Birkenstock, which was invented in Germany in 1774 and enjoyed a heyday in the U.S. in the sixties, is poised to endure for a while longer. While some consumers may embrace more formal styles once the pandemic is finally over, 70% said in an NPD survey that once they return to work and resume normal activities they plan to dress at least as casually than they did before the pandemic.
"With that in mind, the industry should not plan for a major resurgence in fashion footwear," NPD said in emailed comments. "While we will surely see an uptick in sales as society gets moving again, NPD's Future of Footwear report projects that in 2021, the fashion category will recoup less than half of the volume it lost in 2020."