Authentic Brands Group is a brand development, marketing, and entertainment company which owns a global portfolio of entertainment and lifestyle brands. Here, RLI sits down with ABG President and Chief Marketing Officer Nick Woodhouse to discuss how the company has grown and developed, what its future plans are and how its new and exciting partners will help drive the business forward.
Launched in 2010 and headquartered in New York City, Authentic Brands Group (ABG) elevates and builds the long-term value of consumer brands and properties across the world by partnering with best-in-class manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.
The company was founded on the principals that there are multiple brands and intellectual properties whose value may not have yet been unlocked, or there are those brands that have lay dormant for a period of time that need to be reinvigorated and brought back to the forefront of customers minds.
“We own over fifty brands, our partners have 5,500 stores around the world and we are in 195 countries,” explains Nick Woodhouse, President and Chief Marketing Officer of Authentic Brands Group. “Around 35 percent of our business is now international and recently we’ve seen the international business increase because a lot of key countries are fully back online, having been impacted by Covid-19 many months before North America.”
The company has grown exponentially year-on-year since inception and has very quickly become one of the largest licensors in the world. The business has in its first decade of operation built a reputation as a company that is not afraid to take a risk in terms of how it brands, how it sells and where it sells.
Never standing still, ABG has recently made two new and exciting acquisitions in the shape of American brands Forever 21 and Barneys New York. The two are iconic, globally famous retailers and Woodhouse explains they are very proud to own these brands and have plans in store for both.
“Whilst we have been in quarantine we’ve been actively chasing the brands and properties in our acquisition pipeline, which could be very robust over the next 12 to 18 months. We’re also laser focused on our international business and see tremendous opportunities for our brands around the world,” explains Woodhouse.
In terms of parts of the world in which the business is still developing, Woodhouse believes China and Asia Pacific are certainly regions of focus, along with Northern Europe and Germany, Austria and Switzerland. While its brands distribute products in all of these countries, he feels there is lots of room for further exposure through direct partnerships. Over a short period of time ABG has built long lasting and successful partnerships with some of the most respected manufacturers, operators and retailers across the globe. A key to ABG’s success is their ability to put themselves into the shoes of potential partners and create a win-win structure that benefits both sides.
ABG takes a unique approach to every partnership and practices flexibility first. When approaching new territories specifically, Woodhouse explains that while the company adheres to a set of core business principles, it also adapts to meet the unique needs of its partners.
“Does that mean disrupting the supply chain a little or helping our partners because they’ve got more duty for importing into the country? Is it growth on digital and e-commerce as opposed to brick-and-mortar? Every country has different sensibilities about how they operate businesses and how they interpret our brands. We try to be as open as possible for them and so I think our biggest asset is this element of flexibility in the way we do things,” says Woodhouse.
The company embraced social media from the very outset in 2010, utilising Twitter as its number one platform in terms of information, and using Facebook more for the community offerings it possessed. Because of this foresight and early engagement, ABG has been able to adapt and remain at the cutting edge of any new social media platform that was created, be it Instagram, Snapchat, Weibo, WeChat and even TikTok, which is arguably the most important platform right now. This engagement with social media means that today the company can proudly state its brands have nearly 235 million social followers combined amongst all the platforms its utilises every day.
When asked about the key drivers of ABG’s success, Woodhouse shared that he firmly believes the main reason the company has enjoyed success is because of its people. ABG has assembled one of the strongest teams across brand, marketing, retail, wholesale, financial, legal, all parts of the industry in which it works. “We have veterans as well as youth. We adopted large digital practises early and our team is young – those who aren’t young physically, think young and are always finding ways to be one step ahead of the consumer,” he states. The second driver is ABG’s flexibility in how they partner with other companies and the third is their discipline in staying true to the core business model.
When speaking about challenges, Woodhouse finds that maintaining a winning team is a labor of love. Finding great people is a challenge in itself but ABG’s leadership also places great importance on finding the right people who understand the company’s DNA and fit in with the culture.
“A post Covid-19 challenge is going to be how we get back online as quickly as possible and I say that very humbly because that’s humanity’s challenge as well. There’s going to be a lot of challenges going forward, but we just have to stay disciplined and maintain a people first attitude,” Woodhouse concludes.