Prime Line's Jeff Lederer and alphabroder's Norm Hullinger Talk Merger Announcement
Yesterday, Prime Line and alphabroder announced their plans to merge the two companies, creating options for distributors with both hard goods on the Prime Line side and soft goods on alphabroder's.
After years of knowing each other from various organizations, alphabroder CEO Norm Hullinger and Prime Line CEO Jeff Lederer felt that combining their companies assets and abilities would create a strong resource for distributor customers.
“Jeff and I have known each other for quite a few years,” Hullinger told Promo Marketing. “We've been on many committees together. We sit in many of these groups together, and we always talk about how the industry is changing, and how the industry is accelerating. We sort of recognized that we need to always improve the offering that we extend to our customers and our value proposition. And, as such, in various brainstorming sessions, both Jeff and I always felt like there would be a time when we need to reinvent each of our companies. And, it turns out we're going to reinvent our companies together.”
Prime Line and alphabroder are not strangers to mergers and acquisitions. In January 2016, Prime Line acquired Jetline, making Jetline the company's value line. In December 2015, alphabroder combined with Bodek and Rhodes. It was the third company to join the alphabroder family of brands in a span of three years, following Ash City Worldwide and Imprints Wholesale.
“We certainly would like to think that our newly combined company will take the lead in appropriate [mergers and acquisition] activity as we move forward,” Hullinger said. “Clearly, at alphabroder, we felt that we had more work to do in the apparel side, … and certainly [Lederer] has contemplated forward-thinking strategies for the hard goods aspect of our company. And we're excited about both.”
Lederer said that he looks at situations like this in three separate ways: Is this good for the customer? Is it going to help the company's culture and its employees? And is it good for the company?
“That mix has been successful,” he said. “And we predict that will continue. But, not everyone does integration, and mergers and acquisitions well. I believe that alphabroder has done it really well, and I believe Prime has done it really well. And to take those two philosophies, build a culture and build value for customers, if you can take those two things and make that happen pretty quickly, then you have a really winning conversation.”
Going forward, Lederer and Hullinger said that distributor customers wouldn't notice any difference. If, somewhere down the road, things do change, they said that it would only be to make the customer experience better.
“One of the things that was attractive to me was that Norm and the alphabroder team really appreciated the value of our team and what we've built here at Prime,” Lederer said. “I think they're excited, and I'm excited, by that prospect. We're going to continue down the path that we're on of growing and building value for our distributors. Distributors should see only positive synergies if and when that makes sense. Maybe not synergies, but positive opportunities, for them to work with, and they should see no changes at all right off the bat. And if there are any, it's only with the mindset that it's a good thing for the distributor, it's a good thing for the employees, and it's a good thing for the industry.”
As Hullinger put it, it's about expansion, not contraction.
“I think the important thing to remember is that these are two very, very healthy companies that are doing extremely well in the marketplace that are, quite frankly, are growing and performing well,” he said. “And the only reason for our two companies to come together is for us to leverage the strength that each of us have and make the combined new company better than either one of the two individual companies. And when it's time to make those moves-and to Jeff's point, that won't be right away—we're going to sit back and digest for a while. But, when it's time, we're going to create more offers for our customers and our customers' customers. And it will all be positive.”