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Outdoor Voices Reportedly Set for Bankruptcy Amid Activewear Struggles

Outdoor Voices Reportedly Set for Bankruptcy Amid Activewear Struggles

It’s a trying time for activewear, as Outdoor Voices stores are left shuttered with irate notes posted by former employees

Outdoor Voices is in the middle of a firestorm after former employees have revealed the troubled activewear company is headed towards bankruptcy, following reports that the brand is closing all stores and transitioning to an online-only retail model.

The brand has seemingly removed all of its 15 brick-and-mortar retail locations nationwide from its website. 

The news of the potential insolvency was first reported by Sourcing Journal, which cited former Outdoor Voices employees with close knowledge of the matter. The activewear brand has also missed rent and vendor payments in recent months, according to the publication, and gave pink slips to most of its corporate employees.

According to another report, from Puck News, Outdoor Voices has already closed all of its retail locations and intends to focus solely on its e-commerce business.

Rise & Fall

Like Lululemon, Outdoor Voices has developed a cult-like following as devotees of the brand have embraced its merchandise as much as its #doingthings lifestyle ethos. Founded in 2013 by Tyler Haney, the brand moved from its New York City roots to Austin, Texas, as it grew. 

By early 2020, right before activewear and athleisure began to see a pandemic-related boom, Haney stepped down as CEO during restructuring efforts. Internal strife had been brewing and an anonymous letter had been sent to the Outdoor Voices’ board and executives that targeted Haney for her management style.

Financial troubles were also percolating, with the company’s valuation down to $40 million in 2020, a steep decline from its 2018 valuation of $110 million. By 2021, the brand had named Gabrielle Conforti, former Urban Outfitters president, as its CEO. 

The activewear company had begun shopping for a buyer in 2022, according to Business of Fashion. 

Haney may have been out of the picture, focusing on Joggy, a cannabis supplement brand, but she appeared to find time to keep a watchful eye on the brand she founded — even leaving comments last year on Outdoor Voices’ social media posts that indicated she had felt the brand had lost its way. 

Now, with news swirling of a potential Outdoor Voices bankruptcy, the active Reddit community on r/OutdoorVoices has been posting images of closed stores, many with notes in the windows that have the Venmo handles of former employees. One photo from a shop in Minneapolis reads, “Our (chairwoman) Ashley Merrill refuses to pay anyone severance. We appreciate anything that you can give. All funds will go directly to this staff. Thank you!” 

Activewear Brands Struggle Post-Pandemic 

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It’s been a trying time for some in the activewear game, with leggings giant Lululemon even admitting that it will remain cautious in 2024 in the face of market uncertainty.

Gap’s activewear arm, Athleta, reported an 18% net sales drop in its third quarter of fiscal 2023 compared to the prior year, noting in its earnings release that sales continued to be a challenge. Athleta has said it would work on re-engaging its core customers.

Activewear brand Bandier had also been looking for a buyer to mitigate supply chain challenges before getting acquired along with Carbon38 by BC Brands in January. 

More traditional sportswear giants have also seen some headwinds. Under Armour also reported slowing sales, and Nike cut its annual revenue forecast, announcing a $2 billion cost-savings plan that included restructuring.

One outlier is Gymshark, which recently reported a rather uncommon push-and-pull situation, having experienced slumping profits in 2023 (reporting $16.5 million, down from $35.3 million) but a 15% revenue increase. The brand, founded and led by U.K.’s youngest billionaire, Ben Francis, is going full-steam ahead. 

Outdoor Voices didn’t immediately respond to Athletech News’ request for comment

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