42 West 39th Street, Third Floor
New York, New York 10018
Telephone: (212) 239-0990
Toll Free: (800) 821-7930
Fax: (212) 239-4261
Web site: https://www.everlast.com
Subsidiary of Sports Direct International plc
Sales: $100 million (2018 est.)
NAICS: 339920 Sporting and Athletic Goods Manufacturing; 423910 Sporting and Recreational Goods and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers
Everlast Worldwide, Inc., is the proprietor of one of the world's most iconic and historic sporting goods brands. Originally known as a maker of high-quality boxing equipment, the company later began licensing its brand and familiar logo to a wide range of athletic apparel, equipment, and accessories manufacturers. As of the early 21st century, Everlast's brand licensing business provides the lion's share of its revenues, with boxing equipment sales a distant second. Founded as a small swimsuit factory in the Bronx, Everlast has become a global brand that operates as a subsidiary of the United Kingdom's Sports Direct International plc.
Jacob Golomb, a 17-year-old son of a tailor, and his wife, Hannah, founded Everlast in the Bronx in 1910 to manufacture swimsuits. The name of the company was derived from his guarantee that the outfits would last an entire summer. Within a few years he began producing other sports equipment and opened a shop in the Bronx to sell his wares. An avid boxing fan, Golomb also began making boxing equipment, and within a few years his store became known as Boxing Headquarters.
The connection of the Everlast name with champions began in 1916, when the future heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey turned to Golomb for equipment. According to his biographers, Dempsey was unheralded when he arrived in New York in 1916, but apparently Golomb recognized the boxer's potential and granted him credit on training gear. However, Dempsey failed to launch his professional boxing career at that time, so he returned to the West, where in reduced circumstances he picked fruit, dug ditches, and washed dishes.
A new manager, Doc Kearns, provided Dempsey with a second chance, and it was in late 1917 that the boxer began making a name for himself after a pair of noteworthy fights in San Francisco. He returned to the New York area in 1918, knocking out the number-one contender in Harrison, New Jersey, which resulted in a title fight against Jess Willard on July 4, 1919. Dempsey, forever grateful to Golomb, was wearing Everlast boxing gloves on the day he became the heavyweight champion of the world. For years, he freely endorsed Everlast products.
To replace the trunks secured by a leather belt that most boxers wore, Golomb introduced trunks with an elastic waistband during the mid-1920s. He continued to add to his line of boxing equipment, so that by the 1930s Everlast's ties to the sport were deeply ingrained. With all the great fighters wearing Everlast trunks and robes and fighting with Everlast gloves, the company gained the reputation as “The Choice of Champions.” To the general public, Everlast and its distinctive concave logo became virtually synonymous with boxing.
After Jacob Golomb died during the 1950s, the business was taken over by his son David. In 1958 David Golomb sold a half-interest to Ben Nadorf, but it remained very much a private business. Nadorf was instrumental in expanding Everlast and opening a second manufacturing operation in Moberly, Missouri, in 1966. It was in Moberly that Everlast produced complete boxing rings, including ropes, turnbuckles, corner stools, and 12-inch gongs to mark the rounds of a fight.
Long dominant in boxing, Everlast was not quick to adapt to the changing world of the 1960s and 1970s. The sport of boxing remained popular, but young boys no longer received a pair of boxing gloves in much the same way they would a baseball glove or a basketball. Moreover, the company faced increased pressure from foreign companies that now made copycat boxing equipment, which was carried by the modern sporting goods chains, as opposed to the smaller stores that Everlast traditionally preferred. However, apparel companies recognized that the Everlast label possessed international recognition, promoted by its recognizable logo, which was seen during countless fights on television: on the waistbands on trunks, the cuffs on gloves, and the stanchions supporting the ring turnbuckles.
Everlast also received free play when it appeared in the advertising of other products. Despite the company's lack of interest in actively promoting itself, the Everlast label had achieved an incredible level of recognition. Virtually without trying, the company had created a brand with a penetration that others could only dream about. With its longtime connection to boxing, Everlast possessed an athletic and tough image, as well as associations to an edgy world. In other words, it had the making of becoming incredibly hip, a brand in a category all by itself with immense untapped value.
It was in 1983 that the company first agreed to license the Everlast name. The apparel maker Gerson & Gerson licensed the label to market a line of novelty women's shorts and robes. To promote the items, Gerson employed models who shadowboxed in department stores wearing skimpy tank tops and shorts, a campaign that failed miserably. According to J. Millman in a 1990 Forbes article, “To many shoppers, the soft-porn approach seemed only slightly more upscale than mudwrestling…. Everlast learned an important lesson: If you're selling macho by association, go light on the macho. Capitalize on the scrappy image without offending the target market with lurid images of boxing mayhem.”
Licensing became an increasingly more important source of income for Everlast as boxing equipment sales tapered off, although sales of sports equipment such as punching bags, wrestling mats, and pommel horses to schools and gyms remained steady. Relying primarily on an outside agent, Everlast licensed its name by the end of the 1980s to more than a dozen companies, its logo found on a wide range of sportswear as well as on sports products such as equipment bags. Everlast merchandise was sold in upscale department stores such as Bloomingdale's, Macy's, and Nordstrom, and not found in mass merchandisers such as Kmart. In addition, during the 1980s Everlast sought to take advantage of a fitness boom and began manufacturing some new exercise items, including ankle and wrist weights for women, exercise wheels, and other home items.
Horowitz started out as the vice president of operations at Golden Touch, which did about $1 million in business during its first year. Fifteen years later it was a $250 million international concern and Horowitz was part owner, although not the major partner. He struck out on his own in 1990, starting up his own company to produce no-name activewear and sportswear. In 1992 he formally incorporated the business as TI Sportswear, Inc. That same year Everlast approached him about licensing the Everlast label for women's sportswear. After receiving the license, Horowitz changed the name of his company to Active Apparel.
Everlast originally asked Horowitz if he was capable of doing half a million dollars in business under the Everlast label during the first year. When he was able to generate $6.7 million in sales in 1993 by focusing on the theme of women's empowerment, followed by $12 million in 1994, Horowitz solidified his relationship with Golomb and Nadorf. Proving to be a tireless promoter of the Everlast women's line, he crisscrossed the country and even became involved in women's boxing. To take advantage of Active Apparel's success in transforming a traditionally male-dominated brand into a lucrative women's line of clothing, he soon signed a licensing agreement with Converse.
In 1995 Horowitz took Active Apparel public, offering initial shares at $6.25 and netting $4 million. Everlast remained the most lucrative part of Active Apparel's business, and Horowitz eagerly strengthened his ties to the boxing label. In late 1997 Active Apparel began selling a line of bathing suits under the Everlast Woman brand. He subsequently landed the Everlast menswear license as well, which led to even more robust business for Active Apparel. Promotional efforts were stepped up, leading to “Everlast Week” activities conducted at major retailers. The company also opened concept stores in Bloomingdale's.
Although the licensing business, spearheaded by Active Apparel, was doing well for Everlast during the 1990s, its traditional boxing equipment business was deteriorating rapidly. Its shoes were of poor quality, essentially generic products made in Pakistan with the Everlast logo stitched on them. Furthermore, the company's robes and trunks had not kept current with changing styles, and its gloves no longer appealed to professional fighters. They were not considered to be “punchers' gloves,” nor were they durable, leading some to call them “Neverlast.”
Other companies took advantage of Everlast's decline, including the new glove manufacturers Grant and Reyes. Rather than answer the upstart competition by improving the quality of its boxing equipment, the company allegedly turned to unsavory means of maintaining its market dominance. In 1998 Grant's founder, Grant Elvis Philips, sued in federal court, accusing Everlast of conducting a smear campaign against him. He claimed that Everlast personnel spread a number of nasty rumors about his operation: that it illegally smuggled products into the country, lacked product-liability insurance, bribed fighters to wear Grant gloves, and produced gloves that were so defective they could lead to injuries, even death. According to Grant, Everlast was also responsible for a whispering campaign that suggested he was the illegitimate son of a Nevada boxing promoter and that he was known to steal Everlast gloves out of dressing rooms so that boxers would have to fight wearing Grant gloves. Some months later the suit would be settled, with Everlast paying an unspecified amount of money.
Horowitz was quick to initiate changes, foremost of which was to restore Everlast's reputation in the boxing world. He replaced 1950s-era sewing machines with new models and computerized the ordering and inventory systems. He also hired consultants to help redesign Everlast equipment. The well-known trainer Teddy Atlas served as the connection to the fighters, trying out new equipment and offering suggestions to the Everlast designers. Horowitz also hired Dr. Charles Melone, a noted hand surgeon, to help in the design of gloves, making sure they conformed to the hand and offered proper protection. Atlas, in turn, made sure the gloves felt right from the boxer's point of view. Horowitz became a frequent visitor to major fights, bringing along Everlast factory workers as well. Boxers were also invited to visit the Everlast offices and factories. Also, the wellknown boxers Sugar Ray Leonard and Shane Mosley were hired as spokesmen for Everlast.
To support licensees and the introduction of new products, Horowitz stepped up the company's marketing efforts, from developing new packaging to engaging in advertising for the first time in many years. He forged sponsorship deals with the major boxing broadcasters HBO and ESPN so that the Everlast logo would be prominently displayed on mat rings and corner posts. He was also keen to take advantage of product placement opportunities. The 2001 film Ali, which was based on the career of the famed boxer Muhammad Ali, featured the Everlast logo throughout, and although the producers needed Everlast to maintain period accuracy and were prepared to pay for period Everlast equipment, Horowitz willingly donated the items. The result was in many ways a two-hour Everlast commercial and a rare case in which a movie's product placement was fully justified by the story.
The various efforts at rebuilding the brand seemed to pay off. Everlast Worldwide's net sales improved 23 percent, from $53 million to $66 million between 2001 and 2002. Its net income was up 50 percent. The brand's reach was extended even further during the summer of 2003, when the company partnered with a French parfumier to develop a line of fragrances, deodorants, and other scented products for both men and women. Weeks later, Everlast announced a licensing deal that would soon see lines of vitamins, sports drinks, and nutritional supplements lining store shelves. As brand licensing became the focal point of the company's 21st-century business strategy, Horowitz began consolidating the boxing equipment manufacturing business, closing its near-century-old plant in the South Bronx, and leaving its factory in Moberly, Missouri, as Everlast's sole U.S. manufacturing base.
The year 2004 saw Everlast lending its name to a line of men's fine jewelry, as well as new fashionable casual apparel lines. Once evocative of sweaty gyms and salt-of-the-earth prizefighters, the brand was now trending upscale, revamping its footwear lines for distribution to athletic apparel stores and premium department stores, rather than general retailers. In 2005 Horowitz passed away and was replaced as CEO by his son Seth. The following year the company participated in a large-scale cobranding effort in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the classic boxing film Rocky, adding its logo to assorted Rocky toys and sports equipment, and promoting the release of Rocky Balboa, the latest film in the series.
As the Everlast brand began regaining its luster, the company attracted the interest of a number of prospective buyers. During the summer of 2007 Seth Horowitz and his board accepted a buyout offer of $146 million, or $26.50 per share, from the Hidary Group, a New York investment firm. Within weeks, however, final negotiations with Hidary fell apart, and Horowitz and his team paid to back out of the deal, accepting instead a $168 million offer from Sports Direct International, a U.K.-based sports retailer with a solid brand portfolio of its own. Operated by the British billionaire Mike Ashley, Sports Direct had just gone public that February.
Now operating as a subsidiary of Sports Direct, the Everlast brand underwent yet another refurbishment beginning in 2008, under the supervision of new CEO Adam Geisler, the company's former marketing chief. With the new slogan “Greatness Is Within” and a massive multimedia ad campaign, the company sought to position Everlast as a major global fitness brand with a universally understood historic legacy. Geisler also worked to rebuild the company's deteriorated reputation as a maker of quality in-ring equipment by introducing new hand-crafted glove lines and inking promotional deals with prominent fighters from the world of mixed martial arts, a sport that was beginning to eclipse boxing in terms of popular appeal.
Over the next decade, the Everlast brand was affixed to a wide variety of sports-related enterprises in more than 100 countries, including fitness gym chains, brickand-mortar retail stores, and several lines of electronic pedometers and wearable heart rate monitors. In 2017 the company licensed its logo to the French start-up PIQ Sport Intelligence to brand a new wearable artificial intelligence device that monitored and analyzed the movements of boxers in real time as they trained. Meanwhile, Everlast's British parent company was attempting to expand its footprint in the U.S. market by acquiring the 660-store Finish Line sportswear chain and the large apparel brand portfolio of the Iconix company. The strategy was met with marked skepticism by industry observers and shareholders alike, with Ashley forced to fend off at least two serious shareholder revolts. Still, the venerable Everlast brand seemed likely to remain valuable, regardless of the eventual fate of Sports Direct.
Updated, Chris Herzog
Everlast Fitness Mfg. Corp.; Everlast Sports International Inc.; Everlast Sports Mfg. Corp.
Adidas AG; Nike, Inc.; Reebok International Ltd.; VF Corporation.
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