In the midst of the Rendezvous conference last week Nitches Inc. said it was unwinding its acquisition of Texas-based outdoor retailer Backwoods because the credit crisis had made it too difficult to raise money needed to finance Backwoods’ expansion. 


There was a silver lining even in this development, however, as Backwoods CEO Jennifer Mull, who was in attendance as an OIA board member, said she was able to arrange new financing with her longtime banker. In an exclusive interview at Rendezvous, Mull said lining up the loan was not easy.

When contacted in early September, Mull’s banker warned her there would be much more scrutiny because of the credit meltdown. At first, the bank wanted to lend the money to her personally and have her lend it to the company. By Monday, however, she provided enough security to persuade the company to lend directly to Backwoods.

Mull said she has no plans to slow down Backwoods’ growth plans, which call for opening a new store in St. Louis and building out the company’s e-commerce site. She is also looking for licensees to make new lines of apparel and leather luggage that will be sold through boutiques and department stores.  YTD store sales are tracking about 15% above last year, she said.

“A major impetus for me to sell Backwoods from the beginning was to fuel growth at a faster pace than I could do on my own,” Mull told B.O.S.S. “Nitches has been a good partner, but when the times came for that to be done the credit crisis happened.”

Mull said the Midwest remains relatively prosperous thanks to resurgent oil, aerospace and computer industries, but also said she it getting calls from other retailers looking to sell. “These are people who want to transition out and say, ‘If I’m going to do this I might as well do it now,’” she said.