Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. (BNED) entered into a long-term strategic omnichannel merchandising partnership with Fanatics and Lids to support sales of licensed sports and emblematic merchandise.

Fanatics’ e-commerce and technology platform will offer BNED campus stores an expanded product selection, improved online and mobile experience and a direct-to-consumer platform. 

With Lids, BNED and its campus stores will offer access to trend and sales performance data on licensees, product styles and design treatments from more than 1,200 Lids stores.

Under the terms of the agreement, Fanatics and Lids will jointly make a $15 million equity investment in BNED and receive 2,307,692 common shares of BNED, representing a share price of $6.50 per share. BNED said it would use the proceeds toward growth initiatives.

BNED will retain its relationships with campus partners and be responsible for employees and the management of day-to-day campus bookstore operations. It will also ensure that each campus store retains key aspects of in-store merchandising, including local product assortments and the styles and designs that reflect each campus’ brand.

BNED will use Fanatics’ management of emblematic merchandise and gift sections of campus store websites. Lids will manage in-store assortment planning and merchandising of emblematic apparel, headwear and gift products for partner campus stores.

“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, CEO and chairman, 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.”

“We look forward to partnering with BNED and Lids to bring our revolutionary approach to the licensed sports business to hundreds of universities across the country,” said Michael Rubin, executive chairman, Fanatics. “Looking ahead, we are eager 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 partnerships with more than 150 universities to operate e-commerce and mobile store sites and sells college merchandise for more than 500 colleges and universities on its site. Lids operates more than 1,200 retail stores across North America, including flagship retail partnerships for branded store merchandise with Macy’s, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Lawrence Berger, chairman, 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.”

Logo courtesy Fanatics