UPDATE: October 21, 2019: Cole Haan on Monday confidentially submitted a draft registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering, according to a company press release. The price range and number of shares for the offering have yet to be determined.
Cole Haan on Monday confirmed to Retail Dive that the brand is preparing to go public. "We can confirm that, consistent with press reports, we have begun to prepare for an IPO," a spokesperson said in an email. "We have no further comment at this time."
Bloomberg first reported the news that the footwear brand had commenced discussions with investment banks, citing unnamed sources.
In its fiscal year ended June 1, the brand, owned since 2013 by U.K. private equity firm Apax Partners, saw sales rise 14% to $687 million and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rise 56% to $95.3 million, Bloomberg also said.
Private equity tends to move its acquisitions to a sale or IPO five or so years after taking them on, which tracks fairly closely with Cole Haan's 2013 acquisition by Apax Partners.
Cole Haan did stumble a couple of years ago, with a debt level and diminished market prospects that led Moody's Investors Service to downgrade it in 2017. But Moody's has since steadily upgraded the staid footwear label, most recently early in the year. In a January report emailed to Retail Dive, Moody's cited "the company's continued earnings growth resulting in solid credit metrics, and the improvement in Cole Haan's liquidity following the close of the proposed refinancing."
That came about when Cole Haan launched its "dual-gender ZERØGRAND All-Day Trainer," an athleisure shoe that "combines the styling you expect from a dress shoe and the performance you deserve from an athletic trainer" and takes full advantage of the hottest slice of the apparel market.
Leisure footwear sales rose 6% to $3.3 billion in the second quarter, while performance athletic shoes dropped 4%, according to a report The NPD Group emailed to Retail Dive. "The growth rate in sport lifestyle footwear slowed, as brands have struggled to keep up with consumer demand for fresh looks, yet the category still remains the strongest in footwear sales for now," NPD Senior Industry Advisor for Sports Matt Powell said in a statement. "Small brands continued to outpace larger brands. Performance footwear continued its four-year decline. For the most part, brands that emphasize lifestyle saw stronger numbers than those that focus on performance."
Indeed, athleisure remains a rare winning segment at a time when consumers are pulling back on apparel spending, in part because they have less need for a variety of outfits.