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Growth by Acquisition

There are experts that say there are only three stages to a business: beginning, middle and end. There are no exceptions; unless, of course, there are mergers and acquisitions along the way. Where do these events fit into the three-stage paradigm? That answer is very unclear.

The past year has been full of acquisitions. This can be taken as a sign that portions of the industry are healthy and looking to invest in growth. Here are four examples from different segments of the market.

UnisyncHeaderComWest Enterprise Acquires
Unisync Group

Unisync was purchased in June 2014 from Kilmer Capital Fund LP, a private equity fund sponsored by well-known Canadian entrepreneur Larry Tanenbaum. Unisync has a highly attractive customer base of leading corporations and is an 11-time winner of the North American Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributers Image of the Year Award for leadership in product design. The award is the industry’s highest achievement and is selected by an independent panel of judges representing the fashion industry’s most celebrated designers, journalists and fashion authorities.

Unisync’s head office is located in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, with a 100,000-square-foot world-class distribution center located in Guelph, Ontario, and a satellite distribution facility and sales office in Calgary. Its unique multi-station “pick-to-light” carousel system efficiently handles large distribution volumes in a cost-effective manner. Unisync also provides a state-of-the-art business-to-business ordering system with maximum flexibility for ordering processes including employee “kitting” and a “Best Fit” technology, ensuring garments fit right the first time thus minimizing returns and exchanges. These core capabilities combined with extensive reporting capabilities for corporate clients have been a major contributor in securing multi-year agreements with many major Canadian corporations.

The transaction was estimated at $13 million including debt, with existing shareholders of Unisync having the capability to receive a future contingent payment of up to $2 million subject to the award of specific business that Unisync expects to bid on in 2015.

ComWest also owns Peerless Garments LP, which was acquired in August 2010. Founded in 1941 as a supplier of basic parkas, Peerless Garments has evolved over the years to a garment manufacturer and importer specializing in the production and distribution of high-tech protective garments designed to provide water resistance, wind proofing and warmth. Peerless is licensed to use Gore-Tex fabrics including Wind-Stopper and other work wear materials and has been a supplier to the Canadian Forces since the early 1950s. Its line of military operational clothing aims to reduce detection through camouflage and concealment while ensuring that soldiers are kept warm, dry and comfortable when exposed to extreme weather conditions. Peerless also produces tactical garments made of fire-resistant, anti-static and chemical warfare protective materials.

Government business represents more than 80 percent of Peerless’ revenue with the remaining revenue coming from sales to other Canadian government agencies, retailers and other smaller customers including customers in the oil and gas industry.

These core capabilities combined with extensive reporting capabilities for corporate clients, have been a major contributor in securing multi-year agreements with many major Canadian corporations. Unisync operates under three distinct brands. Hammill Workwear is the company’s leading, consumer recognized, Canadian work wear and service wear brand with an 80-year heritage. The YORK brand has a 30-plus-year heritage as a leading designer, manufacturer and distributor of Canadian corporate uniforms. Showroom One sources and develops customized promotional apparel and corporate-branded retail items that support brand integrity and corporate marketing initiatives.

ComWest’s board and management believe that, with the acquisition of Unisync, it has established a vertically integrated and unique Canadian enterprise with exceptional capabilities in domestic manufacturing and off-shore outsourcing, combined with state-of-the-art web-based B2B and B2C ordering and distribution systems capable of adding scale at reasonable marginal costs. The combined client base stretches across a broad spectrum of federal, provincial and municipal government departments and agencies such as the Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Border Services, as well as a list of leading Canadian corporations in a variety of industries. In addition, Unisync’s web-based online store capability provides an opportunity to market standard branded products directly to employees of smaller businesses and other retail customers in a cost-efficient manner in the future.

The Unisync acquisition brings a strong complementary management team with industry depth and demonstrated capability to develop and improve shareholder value. “This is truly an exciting opportunity for an industry leading management team and devoted employees to leverage complementary capabilities and drive growth and market diversification. The coming together of these two deep-rooted uniform providers further strengthens the organization’s leadership position in the direct uniform industry in Canada,” says William “Fitz” Blackburn, Unisync’s chief executive officer and partner at Kilmer Capital Partners. “We are also pleased that Kilmer Capital and the balance of existing Unisync shareholders will continue to have a vested interest in the ongoing success of the combined business.”

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smithwarrenheadwerSmith & Warren Acquires
Weyhing Brothers Manufacturing Co.

Smith & Warren, a leading U.S. manufacturer of badges, uniform insignia and accessories, will now carry on the proud Michigan tradition of the Weyhing Brothers Manufacturing Co. The skillful manufacturing process of Weyhing Brothers’ carefully crafted products will be maintained as all of the original tools and dies have been transferred to the Smith & Warren production facilities in White Plains, NY.

“It is with a great sense of responsibility to the Michigan public safety community that we take on the Weyhing Brothers product line,” says Lee Galperin of Smith & Warren. “Weyhing Brothers has been locally manufacturing badges in Michigan for over 100 years. We plan to use the original dies in the manufacture of the new badges while combining modern production techniques to ensure the highest levels of quality and service.”

Weyhing Brothers badge styles will now be available through all authorized Smith & Warren dealers and can be customized and previewed online with Smith & Warren’s industry leading VisualBadge program.

Weyhing Brothers Manufacturing Co. has manufactured in the heart of Detroit since 1903, producing custom-made badges, jewelry and awards. It has been a family owned and operated business since 1983, using the original equipment, tools and dies to produce a unique end product.

Smith & Warren has been proudly manufacturing uniform badges and insignia in the United States since 1925 and is the most technologically advanced badge manufacturer in the United States. The finest materials are combined with cutting-edge manufacturing technology to produce a product that can be worn with pride. Every Smith & Warren badge is manufactured within three weeks and is the only badge that comes with a full lifetime warranty. To learn more about Smith & Warren, visit

AmeriprideWoodCityLaundryAmeriPride Services Acquires
Wood City Laundry

AmeriPride Services Inc., a leading supplier of linen and uniform rental services in North America, announced the acquisition of Wood City Laundry in Cloquet, Minn. AmeriPride began supporting Wood City in late February after a fire and began fully servicing their customer accounts out of its Hibbing branch and Duluth service center in early March under the leadership of Dave Hardy, general manager.

“AmeriPride has been serving area businesses for more than 100 years, and this acquisition provides a great opportunity to expand our market share in the area while introducing new products and services to the customers,” says John Sutherland, senior VP of operations. “We feel this is a nice fit for our business and our new customers and a great opportunity for everyone involved.”

The companies are now executing a seamless transition of the business to AmeriPride. In fact, Wood City Laundry owner Gary Tyman has agreed to join the AmeriPride team and continue building and maintaining his longstanding customer relationships.

“The support AmeriPride provided us during our crisis helped us determine that they are the right company to take care of our customers in the future,” says Tyman. “AmeriPride is a strong, family-owned business that shares our values, and we feel confident that our customers will continue to receive great service.”

Hardy says, “I am very confident in our ability to successfully support our new customers. Our Hibbing production facility has the capacity and resources to take on the additional volume, and we are eager to incorporate the new customers into our business.”

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ProfeetExecusorPro Feet Inc. Acquires

Pro Feet Inc., a national leader in manufacturing and distributing socks for public safety, military and team sports, has acquired Execusox, a Hickory, N.C.,-based company specializing in socks for public safety and postal uniforms. The transaction was completed on March 14, 2014.

The acquisition was prompted by the retirement of Execusox owner Tom Cullop, who founded the company in 1992.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to serve the Execusox customers,” says Taylor Wilson, Pro Feet president. “Their services align closely with what we already offer. It’s an almost seamless transition for Execusox customers.”

Wilson believes Execusox customers will appreciate broader product selection, multiple methods for ordering, faster turnaround times and Pro Feet’s strong customer service. Additionally, Pro Feet can provide custom orders as well as small-quantity fulfillment. Execusox customers will benefit from Pro Feet’s national sales team, giving them the opportunity to meet directly with a representative for product demonstrations.

“My wife and I have been talking about retirement for quite some time,” Cullop says. “We have always appreciated how Pro Feet operates, so we decided to approach them about taking over Execusox. We believe they will take good care of the customers we’ve worked with for so many years.”