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Playboy Owner to Buy Lingerie Retailer Honey Birdette for Over $330 Million

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Former magazine publisher’s purchase is part of an effort to diversify beyond licensing its bunny-ear logo

The owner of the Playboy brand said it agreed to purchase an Australian lingerie retailer for $333 million, as the former magazine publisher tries to expand its business beyond licensing its famous bunny-ear logo.

Honey Birdette, the lingerie brand PLBY Group Inc. PLBY -0.88% is acquiring, has around 60 physical stores primarily located in Australia, with a few in the U.S. and the U.K.

The company expects revenue of more than $73 million for the fiscal year that ends this month, representing growth of over 40%.

The company plans to use its reputation as a pleasure and leisure lifestyle brand to accelerate Honey Birdette’s expansion in different markets through online and physical stores, according to PLBY Group Chief Executive Ben Kohn.

In the coming months, new retail stores will open in Dallas, Miami and New York. “We believe it is a billion-dollar-revenue business,” Mr. Kohn said. “They’re just entering the U.S. market. There’s a huge opportunity in Europe, in Russia and in other territories.”

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that PLBY Group and Honey Birdette had agreed to the deal.

Playboy went public last year after a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, acquired it in a deal that valued the brand at $415 million. Playboy had been taken private in 2011 by founder Hugh Hefner, who died in 2017, and private-equity firm Rizvi Traverse.

In the past decade, Playboy has focused on earning money through licensing deals, placing its name and distinctive logo on clothing lines, nightclubs, casinos, fragrances and more.

The company in March 2020 ceased publication in the U.S. of its print magazine, which had struggled with profitability for years. Licensing is still an important business for PLBY, Mr. Kohn said. “It’s a revenue stream for us on an international basis and in territories that we don’t have the expertise to operate in or where it doesn’t make sense to operate in,” he said.

Honey Birdette, which sells sex toys in addition to lingerie, has garnered attention in Australia for its provocative marketing, such as video mall ads featuring models wearing bondage collars. 

Meanwhile, some competitors in the lingerie retail industry such as Victoria’s Secret are moving away from relying on supermodels in advertising and are incorporating inclusivity into their marketing.

“Although we want to be culturally sensitive to what’s going on in the macroclimate, we don’t want to change what Honey Birdette is doing,” Mr. Kohn said. “They’re provocative, but Playboy is provocative as well, and that’s OK as long as we’re being sensitive.”

Mr. Kohn said 60% of Honey Birdette sales are from repeat customers, largely women.

Eloise Monaghan, Honey Birdette’s founder, will continue to direct creative projects and will help design Playboy’s own intimates line.

“When I founded Honey Birdette 15 years ago, my ambition was to build a brand for women, by women; a brand that would serve as a platform for confidence and sexual and body empowerment,” she said.